UK light commercial vehicle registrations fell 86.2% in April as the pandemic all but shut down the market.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show a total of 3,387 vans, pickups and vans were registered in April; down by 21,217 units on the same month last year and largely made up of orders rushed through to meet demands of industries working on the front line, including NHS and emergency services fleets.
All sectors were hit hard but demand for smaller commercial vehicles fell the most, with pickup registrations down 91.8%, while vans weighing 2.0 tonnes or less saw a 92.3% decline and registrations of mid-sized vans fell 90.4%. Registrations of vans in the 2.5-3.5 tonnes category were down 83.1%, with 2,588 vans delivered to operators.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter succeeded the Ford Transit Custom to become the best seller in April with 814 units, owing to it being commonly used in the emergency services as an ambulance vehicle, and in online deliveries. Similarly, the Iveco Daily made it into the top ten thanks to being widely used for supermarket online deliveries.
For the year to date, performance is down by nearly half (44.0%), with more than 56,000 fewer vehicles registered than in the same period last year. Full-year registrations are predicted to drop 28.0% in 2020, equivalent to a market of 263,000 units by the end of the year. While registrations are expected to recover in 2021, the expectation is still for a 6.1% decline on 2019 due to the high demand seen last year.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “These figures, while not surprising, are still shocking. Restoring business confidence and delivering the safe restart of retail operations will be key to kick-starting demand. Getting this important market moving again will be critical to the wider automotive sector’s recovery and provide a boost to the UK economy as we begin emerge from this crisis.”
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, also commented, saying: “The closure of dealerships has significantly impacted the sales of vehicles that are commonly used by self-employed contractors or small businesses, but many service vehicles were still ordered in April to meet the need for the effort against coronavirus. This has buoyed the figures from crashing completely.
“NFDA has been closely monitoring and liaising with government to ensure the LCV market will be able to maintain its strength for the rest of the closure period, and with manufacturers and businesses to ensure that when dealerships reopen, the sector will be able to recover effectively.”