New van registrations halve in March as coronavirus makes impact

The new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market more than halved in March compared to 2019 figures as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic impacted on the sector.

New van registrations fell by 54.3% in March amid nationwide lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Just 30,247 vans bearing the new ’20 number plate joining the roads last month as operators shelved plans to buy.

Demand fell in double digits across most segments, with only the small volume 4×4 sector experiencing an 18.4% increase. Pickups and smaller vans weighing less than 2 tonnes saw declines of 57.8% and 64% respectively. Larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes made up the bulk of registrations, but were down 56%, with 17,925 units registered. Performance year-to-date is down -33.9%, rounding off the weakest first quarter since March 2012.

Despite the fall in demand, the Ford Transit Custom was still the biggest selling van in the UK, selling more than twice that of its rivals. The Custom sold 4,345 units, with the Ford Transit its nearest rival selling 1,957. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was the third biggest seller (1,928 units), followed by the Peugeot Partner (1,912) and the Volkswagen Transporter (1,802).

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The commercial vehicle market is a barometer for the wider economy so March’s decline to the lowest level in more than 20 years is stark evidence of a crisis of truly unprecedented proportions. There is no doubt that demand will recover once we overcome the challenge that lies ahead, however, given we do not yet know how long this will continue, government must continue to do everything possible to safeguard the sector so it is ready to help operators and the entire country get back to business when that time comes. Commercial vehicles are keeping supermarket and pharmacy shelves stacked and emergency services running – our reliance on this critical sector is being felt now more so than ever before.”

Dan Parton
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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