Newly released light commercial vehicle registration figures show an improvement in van sales in June compared to May as businesses slowly emerge from lockdown.
While the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal the market shrunk 24.8% year-on-year to just over 30,000 units, the smaller decline compares to the 74.1% fall in registrations seen in May and gives hope that the coming months may bring a return to business confidence.
With the sector having been effectively shuttered for nearly three months, the data shows that smaller vans weighing 2.0 tonnes or under were the hardest hit, with demand dropping 49.4%.
Registrations of medium-sized vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes and larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes saw smaller declines of 19.1% and 22.8% respectively, while pickup take-up fell 26.9%. And 4x4s actually recorded 1.1% growth despite the tough economic conditions.
The year-to-date figures show a clear picture of the pandemic’s toll on the sector; for the first six months of the year, a total of 108,876 new vans were registered, down 44.6% on the same period last year and with all segments experiencing a double-digit decline.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Although we are seeing a gradual improvement in demand as the UK starts to get back to business, we are still a long way off normal. The pandemic has stalled all but a few essential businesses, and those restarting now are doing so at reduced pace to ensure safety of their employees and in response to a cautious buyer appetite.
“Restart has been slow, while more uncertainty lies ahead as the UK grapples with business nervousness and potential regional lockdown measures. The industry will do all it can to attract buyers but restoring operator confidence remains the vital next step. A successful restart for the sector will be critical to fleet renewal – and the UK’s long-term green recovery – given the crucial role light commercial vehicles play in urban areas.”
Lex Autolease also highlighted how greener vans could provide a way out of the sales downturn as he said that pandemic has provided a real opportunity to look at where the newest, cleanest vehicles can be introduced on fleet – bringing financial benefits to operators.
Russell Adams, commercial vehicle manager, explained: “For many businesses, improving cashflow is number one priority at the moment – and while making fleet investments might seem to contradict this, electric vehicles can deliver significant cost savings throughout their lifetime, compared with petrol or diesel. We’re working with customers to help them realise these savings, by identifying the job roles on their fleets that can be carried out by electric vans – with no impact on their operations. This tends to mean starting with lower mileage users operating in and around urban areas, who can then become advocates in your driver population.”