The UK van market has seen a positive start to 2021 after registrations rose 2.0% in January.
A total of 24,029 vehicles were registered, marking the highest-volume January since 1990 and 10.5% ahead of the five-year average, thanks to fleet renewals.
However, it was the large vans sector that single-handedly drove demand. Registrations in the 2.5t-3.5t sector rose 25.4% to 16,496 units.
All other segments experienced double-digit declines; small vans under 2.0t were down by half (50.1%) and medium vans in the 2.0-2.5t category fell 16.1%. Meanwhile pickups were down 25.8% and 4x4s fell 30.6%. And rigids (3.5t-6.0t) were down 36.3%.
January’s rise in van registrations follows the 20.0% decline for 2020 as a whole; Although growth is expected for the LCV sector in 2021, SMMT’s latest market outlook has been downgraded to reflect the ongoing challenges in the sector. The forecast predicts LCV registrations to rise 17.5% to 343,850 by year-end, down from earlier predictions of 375,000 vehicles.
Latest SMMT data also reveals 2020 as the year with lowest recorded van-derived average CO2 emissions, down 1.8% on 2019 to 162.8g/km. However, this is still above the 147g/km target now replicated from the EU for the UK. And as demand for heavier vehicles continues to grow, the SMMT said reaching net zero ambitions will depend on creating the right conditions to boost operator confidence.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, commented: “January’s figures are welcome news, particularly after the difficult past year. Although one month’s performance does not full recovery make, the future must involve measures that can deliver long-term changes for the sector if we are to meet ambitious targets and address both climate change and air quality goals. The fastest way to do this is by encouraging uptake of the latest low-emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type, and business confidence remains vital for this transition.”
Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: “These figures indicate a healthy economy and dealers are optimistic about the 2021 LCV market. However there are concerns around consumer confidence, the length of the lockdown and vehicle supply constraints that may hold the market back in the first quarter of this year.”