Van market records busiest ever April for registrations

The light commercial vehicle market recorded its busiest ever April as 30,440 new vans were registered, with the number of vans registered in 2021 back to 2019 levels, according to new figures.

All van segments saw artificially inflated growth rates relative to April 2020, when COVID restrictions shut down much of the economy, with an eight-fold increase in total units, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, registrations were also well ahead of the five-year average, with April 2021 up by 23.2%. With some 127,796 vans registered so far in 2021, uptake levels have returned to levels last seen in 2019.

Growth was primarily driven by a sustained increase in larger van acquisition, with vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes accounting for 20,037 registrations. So far in 2021, heavy van registrations have almost doubled compared to the same period in 2020, up to 84,374 compared with 42,749 recorded in the first four months of last year. This increase has been down to established businesses buying again, coupled with the year-on-year growth from the online-home delivery industry, according to the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised commercial vehicle dealers in the UK.

Meanwhile, 20,073 units were registered in the >2.5-3.5t LCV range, representing nearly 66% of all light commercials registered in the month, clearly indicating market confidence in operating maximum weight and capacity vans, the NFDA added.

The SMMT’s latest outlook for the sector forecasts that around 369,000 vans will be registered in 2021.

As in previous months, Ford dominated sales with both its Transit Custom and Heavy Transit models, while the Mercedes Sprinter took the third position. In overall volume terms year-to-date, Ford leads with Volkswagen in second place, followed by Vauxhall commercials.

“Businesses are investing in new vehicles as they grow in confidence, driven by a more positive economic outlook stimulated by the vaccine rollout,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “There has been particular uplift in larger van uptake, both from established demand in home delivery, but also more broadly as other sectors emerge from lockdown looking to maximise their payload efficiency. With a fragile supply chain still subject to risk of disruption and ongoing Covid restrictions, there is some way to go before we can say business is back to normal, but after a very difficult year, the outlook is much brighter.”

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the NFDA, added that the figures were “extremely positive” and boosted by new-found confidence in the economy, a successful vaccine roll-out and a clearer route out of the pandemic. However, she did voice a note of caution: “Although most UK commercial dealers are confident that demand will continue as confidence in the economy increases, there are concerns over supply due to ongoing COVID-related issues at factories around Europe and the worldwide shortage of semiconductors.”

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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