LCV demand falls in August as buyers wait for new plates

Demand for light commercial vehicles (LCVs) dropped by 16% in the UK in August, as fleet operators wait for the new September plate, new figures have revealed.

In all, 19,407 vans and pickups were registered in August, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

August is traditionally the quietest month of the year for registrations as it coincides with holiday season, as well as some fleet operators putting off buying vans until September to ensure they can get the new 70-plate.

Declines were recorded in all classes of vehicles, notably vans weighing more than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes – the biggest selling segment of the market – which fell by 18% from 16,173 in August 2019 to just 13,277 this year.

Sales of vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes fell by 35%, although this makes up a smaller percentage of the market than the larger vans. Sales of pickups and vans weighing 2-2.5 tonnes were the most robust, falling by just 2.4 and 3.2% respectively.

Overall in 2020, registrations as still significantly down on the same period in 2019, in large part down to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. In the year to date, 155,984 LCVs up to 3.5 tonnes have been registered, a fall of 36% on 2019, when 245,400 had been registered by this point in the year.

Rigids weighting 3.5-6 tonnes fared relatively well in August with sales down by 12% year-on-year – 396 compared to 449. In the year to date, sales are down by 26%.

Meanwhile, sales of individual vans showed a surprise, with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter being the top seller by some distance, with 3,471 units shifted in August, more than 50% more than its nearest challenger, the Ford Transit Custom, which registered 2,181 units. The Custom had been the top-selling van in the UK every month this year. Sales of the Sprinter were buoyed by some significant orders as well as enticing offers.

As usual, the Ford Transit was the third biggest selling van in the UK, selling 1,211 units. The Volkswagen Transporter was the only other van to sell more than 1,000 units this month.

However, Vauxhall had a terrible month, with none of its vans making the top 10 seller list. Despite this, the Vauxhall Vivaro is still the fourth best selling van in the UK this year.

The Transit Custom is still the biggest selling van in the UK this year, having sold 21,995 units. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is catching, with 14,184 registrations. The Transit is the third biggest seller – the only other model to top 10,000 registrations this year – followed by the aforementioned Vivaro and the Transporter.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “August is traditionally a quiet month as fleets wait for the new September plate, so even small volume declines can look big in percentage terms.

“However, with this sector particularly sensitive to the economic outlook, which remains uncertain, we urgently need measures to restore operator confidence to invest and renew their fleets – vital for achieving the government’s environmental and air quality goals.”

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now the editor of our three commercial vehicle titles: The Van Expert, The Truck Expert and Commercial Vehicle Engineer.

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