March marks best first quarter for LCV market since 2021

New LCV sales were up 11% in March, as the SMMT announces that the light van sector has delivered its best first quarter for three years


New LCV sales were up 11% year-on-year in March, as the SMMT announces that the light van sector has delivered its best first quarter (Jan, Feb, Mar) for three years.

According to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), nearly 53,000 new LCVs arrived on British roads last month, which the lobbying group says is the biggest March sales total since 2021 – during the Covid-19 pandemic. This sales volume dwarfs February’s total of 18,000, as many buyers waited for the release of the latest ’24’ numberplate last month.

Over 94,000 new light vans have been registered in the UK in the first three months of this year – a 9% increase on the first quarter of 2023. That said, this is still 8% below the first quarter sales total in 2019.

While pickup sales didn’t really change, 4×4 registrations grew by 29% – a continuing trend for this sector – while sales of small vans (under two tonnes) grew by 45% year-on-year. Conversely, mid-size van registrations (between two and two-and-a-half tonnes) fell by 4%.

Large vans (between two-and-a-half and three-an-a-half tonnes) still make up the large majority of new van sales, and accounted for a large amount of the month’s overall 11% sales shift.

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.

Source: SMMT

BEV uptake matches overall market uptick

Electric van (BEV) sales numbers are continuing to marginally increase, the SMMT commenting that “more fleets went green last month than in any other new numberplate month to date.”

Nearly 3,000 new BEV joined UK roads in March. However, this is only around 370 more models than the same month last year. BEV market share still sits at around 5% – sales are increasing, but this is only a reflection of the growing demand across the market as a whole.

Diesel is still by far and away the most popular operator choice, with over 48,000 sales accounting for 92% of all new LCVs last month.

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 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 sector’s big brands will be content with their sales performance last month.

The likes of Fiat, Maxus and Iveco increased their registration numbers by over 25% in March year-on-year, while Suzuki (a small volume seller in the LCV market) more than doubled its sales numbers.

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

Another one horse race?

Throughout 2023, one LCV dominated the best-selling van race in the UK – the Ford Transit Custom. Can you guess who leads the standings three months into 2024?

The mid-size Transit Custom and its larger Transit sibling are beginning to build a commanding sales lead once again, as Ford remains the UK’s most popular LCV manufacturer.

The Ford Ranger pickup moves up to third in the annual rankings and is now confirmed as the UK’s best-selling pickup model by a country mile. The Toyota Hilux had mounted a decent sales challenge to the Ranger at the start of the year, but isn’t likely to catch up to the Ford now due to the near 5,000 model sales gap between them – just three months in.

The Vauxhall Vivaro has re-established itself as the UK’s ‘best-of-the-rest’ candidate in fourth, but has only recorded a third of the Transit Custom’s registration total – a testament to Ford’s dominance.

This Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Volkswagen Transporter follow closely behind the Vivaro, while the Citroën Berlingo, Ford Transit Connect and Renault Trafic complete the quarterly 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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