UK new light commercial vehicle registrations fell 20.0% in 2020, hitting a seven-year low.
Showing the impact of Covid as well as uncertainty over Brexit, registrations were down to 292,657 vehicles last year compared to 364,778 in 2019 – down by some 73,121 units on 2019 and marking the first time units had fallen under the 300,000 level since 2013.
All van segments saw a decrease in the year, with small vans of 2.0 tonnes or less down 34.4%, medium vans in the 2.0-2.5 tonnes category down 15.6% and larger vans of 2.5-3.5 tonnes down 16.5%. Demand for new pickups and 4x4s fell by 32.7% and 10.6% respectively.
Although the sector had seen a three-month run of registration rises, December ended this, recording a 1.0% fall – in line with previous Decembers. Sub-2.0-tonne vans fell 17.7% while medium vans were down 2.6% and larger vans actually recorded a 7.3% rise. Bigger declines were seen in pickups and 4x4s, which fell by 29.9% and 26.1% respectively.
The SMMT said the figures showed the effect of the pandemic on businesses, and thus the wider economy, despite the van sector having stepped up to meet demand brought about by the rise of online shopping and corresponding deliveries.
Chief executive Mike Hawes said: “It’s been a truly extraordinary and testing year for the commercial vehicle sector. From keeping services running, to getting key workers, goods and medicines from A to B, manufacturers and operators alike have adapted to multiple unpredictable challenges.
“Undeniably the LCV market, having shrunk by a fifth, has a lot of hurdles to overcome as we enter 2021. However, investment in fleet renewal will be key to driving recovery, and the sector’s resilience, now coupled with added clarity over UK-EU trading relations and the rollout of vaccines, offers hope for both the van market and the wider economy.”
The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle dealers in the UK, also commented on the figures, saying a 1% drop in December was not unexpected.
Chief executive Sue Robinson said: “December is always a turbulent month for LCV registrations with private and self-employed buyers holding back to have their van registered in the new year to protect residual values.”
She went on to say: “Following the overall decline in the van market in 2020 and despite the January lockdown that will cause some disruption, with greater reliance on local deliveries and services, and a tariff-free deal with Europe, dealers are more optimistic about 2021.”