Increased demand resulted in the best February performance in the UK’s new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market for a decade, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
It reported a rise of 6.4% in February 2018 to 14,135 units, with 844 more vans and pickups being registered in the month compared with February 2017.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “February is typically a quiet month as buyers await the March plate change so the rise in demand is welcome news. However, with so much uncertainty in the UK at the moment and weak business confidence, we can expect further fluctuations in demand for the rest of the year.”
Driving the growth, medium vans weighing 2.0-2.5 tonnes and pick-ups saw double-digit increases, rising 19.9% and 14.2% respectively. Demand for large vans weighing 2.5-3.5 tonnes also increased by 2.5%.
Car derived vans weighing less than 2.0 tonnes was the only segment to decline, falling -2.4%, although representing just 24 fewer being driven off forecourts in February than the same period last year.
Meanwhile, year-to-date figures showed February's rise in demand balanced January’s decline with only 44 less vehicles driven off forecourts this year compared to last.
Russell Adams, commercial vehicle manager for Lex Autolease, said: “With businesses gearing up to March’s number plate renewal we’d normally expect to see them holding off on new LCV purchases, so this uplift in registrations is a very encouraging sign. We’re now seeing a good number of enquiries from those looking to take advantage of the new plates this month.
“We continue to see interest in pickup vans, especially in the utilities sector, where businesses benefit from the role versatility and off-road capabilities these vehicles offer. We’re still seeing a good level of enquiries for vans in the 2.5 to 3.5 tonne range.”
As electric vehicle technologies progress and investment in the UK’s charging infrastructure increases, viable alternatives to conventionally-fuelled LCVs continue to improve.
Adams said: “We will see new, heavier weight range electric vans introduced in 2018 that could provide some businesses with a genuine alternative to diesel for the first time.
“On top of this, electric vans should become viable for some heavier payload job roles when the Department for Transport’s plan to raise the maximum gross van weight is put into action.”