Light van market continues strong start to 2023

The LCV market has recorded its third consecutive month of growth after a positive March – as light van sales grew by 17%


The LCV market has recorded its third consecutive month of growth after a positive March – light van sales grew by 17% in March compared to the same month last year.

According to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), over 47,000 new LCVs joined the UK road network last month – close to 3,000 more than in March 2022. March is traditionally a pretty high volume month, and March 2023 was no different, as many buyers delayed the registration of their new van(s) until March in order to get the latest bi-annual number plate.

The SMMT adds that LCV sales for the first three months of the year totalled over 87,000 light vans, 17% more than the registrations total for the first three months of 2022. Although this is promising growth, a reflection of increasing production and demand, this year-to-date sales volume is still 15% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Registrations increased across the majority of segments, primarily driven by mid-size vans (between two and two and a half tonnes) and 4x4s, up 66% and 183% respectively. That said, the sales of light vans under two tonnes fell by 25% in March compared to the same month last year.

Though sales are on the rise, the supply issues manufacturers are facing haven’t entirely dissipated, and the War in Ukraine and China’s persistent Covid-19 issues could cause further supply strain in the months to come.

Electric van sales stagnating?

The latest figures show that electric van (BEV) uptake is indeed growing in the UK as 2023 progresses – BEV sales grew by 33% in March when compared to the same month last year.

Over 4,000 new electric vans have been registered in the UK so far this year – still overshadowed by the nearly 69,000 diesel models that have joined UK roads. This is around 200 more BEVs than the electric vans sales total of the first three months of 2022, but electric vans accounted for a slightly higher proportion of new LCV registrations in early 2022.

As ever, the SMMT argues that the lack of charging infrastructure is still the main barrier to BEV uptake. Therefore, the lobbying body is calling on infrastructure providers to “catch up with the commitments made by vehicle manufacturers” by increasing investment and building charging stations at a faster rate, particularly as the government’s Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate (which mandates that 22% of all new vehicles are zero-emission) is due to come into force in less than nine months.

Good month, bad month

Just like the passenger car market, the LCV industry has been hindered by supply shortages for over two years now, and each van manufacturer has been dealing with supply issues to varying degrees.

The most impressive sales increase belongs to Renault, which totalled a staggering 299% growth in registrations in March compared to the same month last year. Volkswagen, Citroën, Nissan, Land Rover, Isuzu and Fiat also outperformed the overall market by more than 10% in March, as did SsangYong and Suzuki.

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

March’s best-sellers results in Ford lockout

Following Ford’s 2022 dominance, the 2023 LCV best-sellers race has kicked off in the same vein, with the last-year’s best-selling LCV, the Transit Custom, in pole position. Ford actually took all three podium positions last month, with the popular Transit Custom followed by the larger Transit in second, and the Ranger pickup in third.

The Volkswagen Transporter is currently the UK’s ‘best-of-the-rest’ candidate, followed by the Vauxhall Vivaro that dropped to ninth in the monthly rankings.

The Citroën Berlingo, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Renault Trafic sit in the middle of the pack, while the Ford Transit Connect and Peugeot Partner complete March’s top ten.

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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