UK van market rises 2% in January

The UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market grew by 2% in the first month of the year, with new models and deals driving fleet renewal, according to new figures.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that 24,029 vehicles hit UK roads in January. Although the fluctuating nature of fleet renewal often impacts the first month of the year in particular, 2021 opened with the highest volume January since 1990, 10.5% ahead of five-year average.

Although growth is expected for the LCV sector in 2021, SMMT’s latest market outlook has been downgraded to reflect ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The forecast predicts LCV registrations to rise 17.5% to 343,850 by year end, down from earlier predictions of 375,000 vehicles.

While nearly all van segments experienced a decline, larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes saw 25.4% growth, which drove overall monthly figures out of the red. Conversely, registrations of small vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes halved, the market for medium vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes declined by 16.2% and demand for new pickups and 4x4s fell by 25.8% and 30.6% respectively.

Latest SMMT analysis reveals that 2020 recorded the lowest figure for average CO2 emissions derived from LCVs, down 1.8% on 2019 to 162.8g/km.

January 2021 saw a rise of low emission LCVs, with battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share rising to 2.22% with 533 battery plug-in vans joining UK roads. Meanwhile, 96.4% of all new vehicles registered are powered by diesel.

The most popular van in the UK in January was the Ford Transit Custom, which shifted 2,711 units. This continues the trend of 2020, when the Transit Custom was the biggest selling van by some margin. Completing the Ford lock-out of the top spots, the Ford Transit was the second biggest seller, with 2,379 units sold. Third was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (1,931), followed by the Vauxhall Vivaro (1,415) and Volkswagen Transporter (1,363).

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “January’s figures are welcome news, particularly after the difficult past year. Although one month’s performance does not full recovery make, the future must involve measures that can deliver long-term changes for the sector if we are to meet ambitious  targets and address both climate change and air quality goals. The fastest way to do this is by encouraging uptake of the latest low emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type, and business confidence remains vital for this transition.”

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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