New van registrations fall in July as supply shortages bite

Registrations of new light commercial vehicles (LCV) declined by 14.8% in July as supply issues – notably of semiconductors – bit into the availability of new vans.

In all, 23,606 vans were registered in July, the first monthly decline in sales since December 2020, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Despite the supply challenges, the month’s performance was only down 4% compared to the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Demand for larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes, which comprise the majority (70.5%) of all commercial registrations in the month, saw a decrease of 5.2% to 16,653 vehicles. Other van segments saw more significant declines in demand compared to 2020, with registrations of vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes down 38.2% and those of vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes down 41.4% to 907 and 2,680 vehicles respectively.

The only exception to the decline was in 4x4s, where sales were up by 145% year-on-year, with 498 registrations in the month.

However, year-to-date registrations remain up 57.5% on last year – some 78,542 more units – with the market also increasing by 1.1% on the pre-pandemic 2015-2019 five-year average. In total, 215,119 new vans have been bought so far in 2021. The increase in van sales over the course of the year has been driven by growth in demand from operators who continue to renew and expand their fleets, notably to meet rising demand for online delivery business and the construction sector.

Even with July’s decline in registrations, SMMT’s latest quarterly forecast anticipates the LCV market to increase by 24.3% to 363,880 units in 2021. However, this is a modest reduction of 1.5% from April’s forecast of 369,000 units, and which would leave it just shy of the total number of vans registered in 2019.

The best-selling van in the UK in July was, as usual, the Ford Transit Custom, which shifted 3,567 units, nearly double that of its nearest rival, the Volkswagen Transporter, which sold 1,944 units. The Ford Transit was third (1,758 units), followed by the best-selling pickup, the Ford Ranger (1,485) and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (1,410).

Overall in 2021, the Ford Transit Custom is the best seller, breaking through the 30,000 unit barrier last month. It has sold more than 10,000 more than its nearest rival, the Ford Transit, which itself has sold nearly 5,000 more than the third biggest seller, the Volkswagen Transporter.

By marque, Ford is the biggest selling manufacturer of LCVs of 3.5t and under by far. Its models have sold 70,659 units so far this year – almost 33% market share. Volkswagen is the next biggest seller, with 23,683 units sold – 11% market share. Vauxhall is the third biggest selling marque, with 21,186 sold (9.9% market share), followed by Peugeot (17,655 units, 8.2% market share), Mercedes-Benz (17,062; 7.9%) and Citroen (16,358; 7.6%).

All manufacturers’ figures are significantly up on 2020 – where the pandemic badly affected sales – although Land Rover has seen the biggest jump in sales, up 225% year-on-year, doubling their market share to just over 1%.

Meanwhile, Vauxhall is the UK’s the best-selling electric LCV (e-LCVs) manufacturer, according to the SMMT figures.

The best-selling manufacturer of an LCV between 3.5-6t was Fiat, which has sold 1,002 units this year – 28.5% of the market. Mercedes-Benz was the second biggest seller with 819 units (23.2% market share) followed by Peugeot (649; 18.4).

Vauxhall has sold 1,560 e-LCVs year-to-date and is one of the few manufacturers to offer an electric van across its entire LCV line-up, with the Movano-e large van and Combo-e joining the Vivaro-e, which is the best-selling model year-to-date in the e-LCV sector.

However, these figures demonstrate that traditionally powered vans still make up the vast majority of sales in the UK.

“While July’s decline in the new van market is disappointing, it must be viewed in context against the semiconductor shortages currently challenging the global industry,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “Given the shift to home-deliveries, strength of construction sector and as the economy opens up further, we expect the market to end the year almost back to 2019 levels. Fleet renewal is critical, not only to ensure the newest, cleanest and greenest vans enter UK roads, but to enable the UK to meet its ambitious green targets.

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK, said the year-on-year drop was expected.

“Following a successful start to the year for the van market, a timely decline in sales has followed which has coincided with supply issues within our industry and factory closures.”

However, Robinson added that NFDA CV members remain cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the year.

Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now the editor of our three commercial vehicle titles: The Van Expert, The Truck Expert and Commercial Vehicle Engineer.

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