Share story

Paccar announced fourth-quarter financial results Thursday that beat Wall Street’s expectations, but said this year’s truck sales likely will start off slowly.

The Bellevue-based truckmaker earned $253.5 million, or 72 cents per share, in the final three months of 2012, down 22.6 percent from the same period a year earlier.

However, that was the high end of Wall Street estimates; analysts had on average expected a profit of just 68 cents per share.

In a conference call with analysts, chief executive Mark Pigott said he expected the second half of 2013 to be stronger than the first half, with most customers replacing obsolete trucks but not yet committing to build up their fleets.

Though some customers have increased their purchases, Pigott said, “It’s still primarily replacement because I think everybody’s waiting to see what the tone and the direction of the general economy is.”

Barring a significant economic upturn, Paccar indicated that it expects flattish sales in North America and Europe.

The company repeated its previous forecast that industrywide heavy-duty truck sales in the United States and Canada — where Paccar derives 57 percent of its revenue — would be between 210,000 and 240,000 vehicles this year. Last year’s sales were 225,000.

It forecast industrywide heavy-duty sales in Europe this year at 210,000 to 250,000 vehicles, compared with 222,000 last year. Europe accounted for 25 percent of Paccar’s revenue in 2012.

Industrywide, North American net truck orders were down 25.9 percent in 2012 compared with 2011, according to research firm FTR Associates, though order volume picked up in the last few months of the year.

The truck industry’s backlog-to-build ratio, an indicator of future production, rose to 4.28 in December but was still well below the 5.22 level of a year earlier, according to FTR.

One of Paccar’s competitors, Daimler Trucks North America, warned Thursday that it might cut nearly 1,300 factory jobs in North Carolina because of slower demand.

A spokesman for the company, which makes Freightliner and Western Star trucks, told The Associated Press it would decide next month whether to lay off workers at its plant in Portland.

In his comments to analysts, Pigott said Paccar might trim first-quarter production by 1 or 2 percent but gave no indication that significant layoffs or shutdowns were looming.

Paccar’s total revenue for the quarter was just a hair under $4 billion, including truck and parts sales of $3.7 billion. That also exceeded Wall Street estimates, despite the 17.7 percent year-over-year revenue decline.

The fourth quarter’s increase in truck and parts sales followed three straight quarters of declines.

Paccar said it delivered 140,400 vehicles worldwide last year, up from 138,000 in 2011. The company’s profit margin rose from 6.37 percent to 6.52 percent.

For all of 2012, Paccar earned $1.1 billion, or $3.12 a share, on total revenue of $17.05 billion — year-over-year increases of 6.7 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

After rising early in Thursday’s trading session, Paccar’s shares ended the day down $1.09, to $47.06. The shares had hit a 52-week high of $48.55 on Tuesday, following a surge that began in mid-November.

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or