The new light commercial vehicle market grew by 85.5% in March with 56,122 vans joining UK roads with the ’21 new number plate, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Usually one of the busiest months of the year, March saw the largest ever increase since the switch to the two plate system in 1999, but one which still represented an -10.9% decrease when compared to the pre-pandemic 2015-2019 average, as prolonged nationwide lockdown continued to suppress business confidence in the first quarter of the year.
Despite all segments experiencing higher demand, total registrations fell a little short of industry expectations as the latest forecast predicted 360,000 LCVs registered by end of the year. Overall, growth was led by an increase in larger van registrations, as vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes made up the majority of the month’s figures, doubling (101.0%) to 36,032 vehicles.
97,356 light commercial vehicles were registered in the first quarter of 2021, up 43.4% on 2020, but down -1.0% when compared to a five-year average taken before the pandemic hit.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Although a marked improvement on last year’s March numbers, these figures illustrate the impact Covid has had on the sector and how far away the van market is from the growth it was enjoying before the pandemic hit. However, as the country emerges from lockdown, vaccinations continue to roll out, and non-essential businesses reopen, the added confidence will hopefully help shift the gears from recovery to growth for the van market.”
Jon Lawes, Managing Director of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, said: “With new vehicle registrations rising for the first time since last August, the automotive industry can look forward with renewed optimism. As the UK prepares to emerge from lockdown, there are encouraging signs consumer confidence is returning, increasing by seven points in March according to a recent study. And our industry has undoubtedly adapted to deliver in a covid-safe environment and even experienced growth. We’ve seen this first-hand, with 2020 being a record year for HCVS. Our leasing fleet grew by more than 19% on the previous year against a backdrop of a declining vehicle leasing market. At the same time our customer feedback scores beat the previous 12 months, highlighting the importance of putting customer experience and safety first during these challenging times.
“I strongly believe that overall the industry is in a good position to meet the pent-up consumer demand in the months ahead by focusing on innovative customer service and delivery.”