USA: Optimism among HVACR manufacturers worldwide has soared to record highs, according to the latest AHR Expo and ASHRAE Journal annual economic outlook survey.
Respondents to the latest survey, carried out in advance of January’s AHR Expo show in Chicago, revealed that 89% of companies were forecasting excellent or good growth, up 15% from the already positive outlook in 2017.
That optimism also translated into higher 2018 sales forecasts for the industry, with 74% of respondents forecasting growth rates of greater than 5%, jumping 14% when compared to the 65% of responders who predicted high growth in 2017.
The strong 2018 forecast is seen as even more impressive considering how robust business was this year. In 2017, sales increased significantly (more than 10% year-on-year) for 34% of the responding organisations. That represents an increase of more than 50% from a year ago when only 23% reported sales growth greater than 10% above 2016 levels. In all, 69% of companies reported higher sales in 2017 versus 57% in 2016.
Survey participants were the most bullish about the residential, light commercial, office buildings and manufacturing/industry sectors, with 70% forecasting excellent or good growth in those segments. Following close behind were heavy commercial, schools and institutional buildings, data/telecom centres and hospitals, each of which ranked in the 60% to 69% range. But the rosy outlook spanned all the markets, with each achieving 50% or better forecasts for excellent or good growth in 2018.
One shift in the 2018 outlook is that new construction was identified as the biggest market driver, as opposed to maintenance/replacement, which was seen as the biggest driver in 2017. New construction was cited by 45% of respondents as the growth engine for 2018, leaping ahead by 50% from the 2017 survey, when only 30% saw new construction as the biggest driver.
In terms of customer requirements, reliability was first, with initial costs and energy efficiency close runners-up as the factors expected to be the most influential in their 2018 buying decisions. The importance of these three considerations is unchanged from the 2017 survey when they were also ranked the highest by respondents.
The AHR Expo takes place at at McCormick Place, Chicago, from January 22-24. It hosts more than 2,100 exhibitors and is expected to attract around 70,000 visitors.