Van sales in the UK are continuing to grow, the market having recorded a positive first quarter of 2016.

According to new figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, demand for light commercial vehicles rose 3.1 per cent in March, contributing to growth of 1.2 per cent in the first three months of 2016 compared to a year ago.

By far the most new registrations were made in the ‘plate-change’ month of March, 63,913 in total, two thirds of the quarter’s total volume of almost 99,000.

According to the SMMT figures there is a continuing trend towards heavier vehicles, the strongest performance being seen in the 2.5 to 3.5-tonne segment which was up 14.2 per cent at 38,847 vehicles, whereas registrations in the two smaller vehicle categories slipped, the 7028 vehicles registered in the sub-2.0 tonne sector down 15.9 per cent and the 2.0-2.5-tonne segment slipping nine per cent at 8,846.

Pickup sales are up, meanwhile, 7,856 registered in March – growth of 5.3 per cent.

Year to date the larger vans – by far the biggest sector in terms of volume – and to a lesser extent pickups are seemingly propping up the market, the 10.4 per cent growth counteracting the two smaller sectors that are both down more than 14 per cent.

Despite this SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes remains confident for the van market. “Traditionally one of the busiest months of the year for the new British van market, March’s new 16 plate gave a welcome boost, closing the first quarter on a positive note after a more subdued start to the year,” he says.

“Following the sector’s record performance set in 2015, we expect to see steadier growth over the coming months,” Hawes adds.

Ford continues to dominate the market with its various Transit models, the brand claiming its best-ever monthly commercial vehicle sales. March Ford registrations of 20,367 compare to 16,134 in the same month in 2015, and take 31.9 per cent of the market.

Second in March is Volkswagen, its 6,369 vehicles down from 7,368 in March 2015 and worth 10 per cent of the market. Peugeot claims third on 6,286 (up from 6,154, worth 9.8 per cent) followed by Vauxhall on 6,279 (down from 6,919, also 9.8 per cent).

The year-to-date tables are slightly better for Vauxhall, now Britain’s only van maker. Ford has 31.5 per cent, VW 10.5, Vauxhall 10.2 and Peugeot 9.6.