More growth for LCV market in April while EV sales plummet

The UK new light van market recorded its 16th consecutive month of sales growth in April, but EV sales took a concerning nose dive last month


The UK new light van market recorded its 16th consecutive month of sales growth in April, but electric van sales took a concerning nose dive last month, as the SMMT cites the urgent need to ramp up the van chargepoint rollout.

According to the latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), nearly 24,000 new LCVs arrived on British roads last month, which the lobbying group says is the biggest April sales total since 2021. April is typically a lower volume month following on from the registration heights of March – when the new numberplates are introduced.

This is a 5% increase in new light van sales compared to April last year. While this further indicates that the LCV market is on track to make a gradual recovery from the sales lows of the Covid-19 pandemic, new electric van (BEV) registrations fell by a concerning 42% when compared to the same month last year.

Pickup sales grew by 16% while 4×4 sales fell by 18%. Sales of small vans (under two tonnes) grew by 41% year-on-year and mid-size van registrations (between two and two-and-a-half tonnes) grew by 7%.

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 5% sales shift.

Source: SMMT

Worrying downturn for BEV registrations

Electric van (BEV) sales numbers matched the overall LCV market growth in March, the SMMT commenting at the time that “more fleets went green last month than in any other new numberplate month to date.” Now things are looking decidedly more bleak.

Compared to the 1,490 or so BEVs that joined UK roads in April 2023, only around 860 new electric vans were registered last month – a 42% decrease year-on-year. This has caused the annual BEV share of the market to shrink by half a percent, and more electric vans had been sold in the UK by this point last year.

Instead, demand for diesel vans grew by 9% – already far and away the most popular operator choice, with over 22,000 sales accounting for 94% 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 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 sector’s big brands will be content with their sales performance last month.

The likes of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan increased their registration numbers by over 25% in April year-on-year, while Maxus (a smaller volume seller) more than doubled its sales numbers.

Conversely, it wasn’t a healthy month of sales for the likes of Citroën, Peugeot 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).

All over by April?

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 has moved 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, and while the Toyota has closed the sales gap in the last month, the Ford still holds a sales lead of over 2,000 models.

The Vauxhall Vivaro has re-established itself as the UK’s ‘best-of-the-rest’ candidate in fourth, but has only recorded less than half 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 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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