LCV market growth continues after slight sales boost in May

The light van market recorded a minor 2% sales increase in May year-on-year - its 17th consecutive month of sales growth


The UK new light van market is continuing to grow, as a minor 2% uptick in total sales means that the industry has recorded its 17th consecutive month of sales growth after May, but electric van registrations are still a cause for concern.

According to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), nearly 26,000 new LCVs arrived on British roads last month, which the lobbying group says is the biggest May sales total since 2021.

While this indicates that the LCV market is on track to make a gradual recovery from the sales lows of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more of a mixed picture when separating these LCV sales into their different categories.

While pickup sales grew by a modest 4%, 4×4 sales fell by 15%. Large vans (between two-and-a-half and three-an-a-half tonnes) make up the large majority of new van sales, and sales of these models fell by 1% in May. The overall market increase was carried by the surge in small van registrations (under two tonnes), which grew by 56% year-on-year.

Source: SMMT

BEV sales well behind targets

Electric van (BEV) sales numbers more or less matched the overall LCV market growth in May, growing by 4% year-on-year. While this may indicate that March’s rather disastrous 42% sales drop is an anomaly, the situation is still rather bleak when you consider the targets set for the BEV market at the start of the year.

The government’s Vehicle Emissions Trading Scheme is targeting a BEV market share of 10% for each brand by the end of 2024. However, electric vans still only account for just under 5% of the overall new LCV sales, and this market share is currently 0.4% lower than the BEV market share at the end of 2023.

Around 1,100 new electric vans were registered last month, and the annual registration total now stands at just under 6,900 battery-powered models. This time last year, BEV sales had already surpassed 7,000 models. Diesel sales account for a huge 93% of the market – still comfortably dwarfing demand for electric vans.

So, why is the BEV market not growing like the electric car market? With each manufacturer now mandated to achieve a minimum proportion of zero-emission registrations every year, this has been a worrying start to the year for the BEV sector. The SMMT points to declining demand, and argues that increasing the rollout of charging stations – including van-specific charging infrastructure – will increase consumer BEV interest.

Good month, bad month

Many of the LCV manufacturers will be fairly content with their sales performance last month.

Holding the biggest market share, Ford increased its sales numbers by 11% year-on-year, after several months of relative stagnation. The likes of Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Iveco and Maxus increased their registration numbers by 10% or over in May year-on-year, while Nissan (selling a much smaller quantity of vans than the likes of Ford) more than doubled its sales numbers.

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

Can the Transit Custom be caught?

One LCV model dominated the sales charts in 2023, and the same van has a comfortable lead once again this year. Five months into 2024, the Ford Transit Custom continues to hold first place in the annual sales race with just under 10,000 more sales than its closest competitor, the Vauxhall Vivaro.

Its larger Transit sibling remains in second place, and the Ford Ranger – the UK’s most popular pickup model by a country mile, sits in third.

The race for the ‘best-of-the-rest’ title is close outside of the top three, with the Vauxhall Vivaro holding a slim registrations lead over the chasing Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Volkswagen Transporter. The Citroën Berlingo, Renault Trafic, Ford Transit Connect and Toyota Hilux complete the annual sales standings.

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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