LCV industry rounds off 2023 with successful December

December marked the twelve straight month of registrations growth for the van market, as demand rose by 36% year-on-year last month


It seems the new van market is on the mend. December marked the twelve straight month of consecutive registrations growth for the van market, as demand for light vans rose by 36% year-on-year last month.

According to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), close to 30,000 new LCVs arrived on British roads in December, which brings the annual new LCV total to 341,000 registered vehicles. This is 59,000 more than last year – a sales growth of 21% when compared to 2022.

The SMMT estimated that this increase of 59,000 sales in 2023 is due to an extra £2 billion spent by UK companies, from local trades to retailers and online delivery services.

Pickup and 4×4 registrations grew by an impressive 137% and 85% respectively, and sales of mid-size vans (between two and two-and-a-half tonnes) more than doubled when compared to the same month last year, rising 101%. After several months of declining sales figures, small van (under two tonnes) registrations grew by a promising 86% in December.

Large vans (between two-and-a-half and three-an-a-half tonnes) still make up the large majority of new van sales though, and while this sector has been pretty stagnant in recent months, sales in this category also grew by a modest 10%, accounting for over 18,000 new registrations.

These figures indicate that the LCV market is on track to recover from the struggles caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the supply issues manufacturers are facing haven’t entirely dissipated, and China’s persistent Covid-19 issues could cause further supply strain in the months to come.

Source: SMMT

Is EV uptake on target?

The battery-powered vehicle (BEV) sector of the LCV industry has continued to grow by 21% in 2023, and after BEV sales fell in November, the year ended on a high for the all-electric sectors as BEV registrations grew by 73% year-on-year in December.

Accounting for 10% of the overall new van market last month, BEV sales totalled just under 3,000 new models in December. Unsurprisingly diesel power still dominates, accounting for 88% of last month’s new LCV sales.

With the government’s EV mandate looming (10% of every van manufacturer’s sales in the UK must be BEVs this year), just how significant is this annual uptick in BEV sales? While this electric registrations growth shows that there is demand for BEVs in the UK, battery-powered vans still only account for 6% of the LCV market share in 2023 – which is the same as 12 months ago.

Around 60,000 new BEVs have been registered in the UK in the last four years, which isn’t that impressive when you consider that just under 313,000 new diesel vans have been sold in Britain this year alone.

As it has throughout the year, the SMMT is calling for “Immediate action to reduce existing barriers to BEV uptake”, citing that the single biggest obstacle is the insufficient number of van-suitable public chargers. It also calls for a long-term commitment to the plug-in van grant to make the all-electric switch “accessible and equitable for operators across all sectors and parts of the country.”

Good month, bad month

Many of the LCV sector’s big brands will be very content with their sales performance last month.

The likes of Citroën, Renault, Peugeot and Vauxhall increased their registration numbers by over 50% in December year-on-year, while Nissan more than tripled its sales numbers. Toyota, Isuzu, Maxus and Land Rover also outperformed the overall market by more than 10% last month.

Conversely, it wasn’t a healthy month of sales for the likes of Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. All of these brands underachieved compared to the overall market by at least 10% (and in some cases, by a lot more than that).

Victory for the Ford Transit Custom

Throughout 2023, one LCV has dominated the best-selling van race in the UK – the Ford Transit Custom. No competitor has come close to snatching the top spot, and the mid-sized Ford finished 2023 with a 12,000-model sales lead over second place, which happens to be its larger Ford Transit sibling.

The Vauxhall Vivaro has re-established itself as the UK’s ‘best-of-the-rest’ candidate, Vauxhall also reporting that it is now the UK’s best-selling electric van manufacturer for a third year in a row.

The Ford Ranger pickup sits in fourth in the annual rankings and is now confirmed as the UK’s best-selling pickup model by a country mile.

The best-selling compact LCV was the Citroën Berlingo, which finished the year in eighth place in the standings.

The Volkswagen Transporter, Renault Trafic and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter sit in the middle of the pack, while the Toyota Hilux and Ford Transit Connect complete the 2023 leaderboard.

Source: SMMT
Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Van Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in van-buying need with independent and impartial advice.

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