New light commercial vehicle registrations fall -3.6% to 362,149 units in 2017, marking the first decline since 2012.
Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the decline was driven by big falls in the markets for vans under 2.0 tonnes and heavy vans weighing 2.5-3.5t, which fell 20.3% and 3.1% respectively.
In contrast, pick-up demand rose 7.8% while smaller vans weighing 2.0-2.5 tonnes saw were up 2.3% compared with 2016.
The annual decline follows a 2.9% rise in December LCV registrations to 28,016 units. The pick-ups was again upbeat, with demand rising 6.0% in the month, while registrations of larger vans weighing 2.5t-3.5t were up 7.5%, in contrast to the full-year figures. However, the sector for vans weighing 2t and smaller vans weighing 2.0t-2.5t fell by 20.4% and 5.7% respectively.
The 3.6% drop for the year was greater than forecast by the SMMT two months ago when it predicted a 2.8% downturn in 2017 followed by a near-flatline performance in 2018 of around 361,000 units and a further drop to 354,000 in 2019.
Van manufacturers seeing downturns in 2017 include Iveco, which fell 28.2% to 2,931, Vauxhall, down 24.8% to 28,368, Renault (-24.8%; 19,595), Volkswagen (-8.6%; 41,474 and second place in the manufacturer league table) and Citroen (-1.9%; 27,237). Ford – which topped the registrations list with a total of 117,831 for the year – was up 2.0% on 2016, Fiat rose 6.5% to 10,844 units and Peugeot increased 9.0% to 36,176 units, putting it in third place for the year.
Despite the overall fall in registrations for the year, the SMMT noted that demand is still at its third highest in a decade, backed up by comments from Lex Autolease.
Russell Adams, commercial vehicle manager at Lex Autolease, said: “Despite further falls in LCV registrations, the leasing market continues to be buoyant. We’ve experienced strong growth over the past 12 months, driven largely by increased demand from tradespeople and businesses operating across construction and ecommerce. These sectors and their supply chains rely heavily on commercial vehicles to transport materials, tools, and manpower and we expect this momentum to continue in 2018.
“It’s interesting that the recent falls in registrations have been driven by fewer sales of heavier vans, where there is little in the way of alternatives to diesel. This reflects what we’re seeing in the leasing market where customer interest in electric LCVs has increased dramatically. Businesses are waiting for larger electric vans to become available and the new models set to launch in 2018 may be the stimulus needed for the zero-emission LCV market take off. But, this will hinge on manufacturers offering affordable prices and vehicles that can truly replace diesel in a variety of job roles.”
Looking ahead to 2018, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, added: “For 2018, however, we expect the economic and political uncertainty to continue to affect the market so government must rebuild business confidence and encourage operators to invest in new vehicles given fleet renewal is fastest way to reduce overall emissions.”