Highest October on record for UK LCV market

Light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations grew for the second consecutive month in October, up 13.3%, marking the highest performing October on record.

The new figures, from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), show some 28,753 vans, pickups and 4x4s were registered in the month, following a weaker than usual October 2019 when the market was impacted by ongoing supply challenges around WLTP approved vehicles.

Demand was driven by the heavier end of the LCV market, with registrations for vans weighing more than 2.5 and up to 3.5 tonnes up 26.8% to 20,492 units.

A combination of pent up demand from the UK’s first lockdown, growth in the construction sector and new fleet orders coming in ahead of an anticipated busy Christmas period kept van deliveries high in the month, says SMMT.

Continuing the trend, registrations for smaller vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes and medium vans weighing more than 2.0 tonnes and up to 2.5 tonnes both grew 1.6% and 2.9% respectively.

However, 4x4s and pickups both saw a dip in demand, with registrations down by 33.6% and 31.8% respectively, in part reflecting difficulties faced by the agriculture sector. 

Year-to-date registrations are still down 24.1%, with the sector yet to make up a shortfall of around 75,000 units.

However, SMMT says that a second lockdown means 2019’s performance will be impossible to match.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive: said, “A second month of growth for the van market is testament to the resilience of the sector and society’s reliance on it amidst a difficult year. However, with a second nationwide lockdown ahead, future performance is difficult to gauge.

“Industries such as construction and logistics will keep the country moving as they did earlier in the year, but continued uncertainty and closures across retail and hospitality will have an effect on all businesses, and consequently commercial vehicle demand.

“Now more than ever, industry needs the assurance of a tariff-free deal with the EU to ensure production and delivery of these essential vehicles continues with no interruption in the difficult months ahead.”

The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) said that, following the increase in September, it was positive to see that registrations of light commercials continued to perform well in October thanks to an improvement in supply, with van production almost back to normal across Europe.

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the NFDA, which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in the UK, said: “With the England lockdown in November and the additional measures across the rest of the country, the semi-retail demand for double-cab vans and pick-ups could decline further.

“However, this will not directly affect the supply for fleets and corporate buyers who have already placed their orders for larger LCVs. As a result, we expect the LCV market to remain stable over the coming weeks.”

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