Renault Trafic, via Renault press siteRenault Trafic, via Renault press site


New vans enjoy bumper March of sales as fleet demand nears 53,000 units

  • Total of 52,916 new vans, 4x4s and pickups registered in March
  • That was up 11.1% year on year, said the SMMT
  • Van sector’s best first quarter for three years

Time 11:31 am, April 4, 2024

More than 50,000 new LCVs joined UK roads in a bumper March for fleet renewal, the SMMT said today.

The trade body said more businesses upgraded to the very latest models than in any other month during the past three years.

A total of 52,916 new vans, 4x4s and pickups were registered – up 11.1% year on year as Britons increasingly depend on vans for everything from online shopping to local trades. March 2021 saw 56,122 units registered.

As a result, the van sector in 2024 delivered its best first quarter for three years with 94,812 units sold – 97,356 were registered in the first quarter of 2021 – with volumes now just 7.7% below 2019’s first quarter, when 102,743 units were registered.

The SMMT said registrations were driven by popular demand for models weighing 2.5 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes – up 16.1% to 35,592 to represent more than two-thirds (67.3%) of the market.

The biggest percentage increase in uptake was by the smallest vans – those weighing less than 2 tonnes – though. They shot up by 44.8% to 986 units, while demand for medium-sized vans (2 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes) fell slightly by 3.6% to 8,939 units.

Pick-up volumes increased to 5,767, up 0.1% compared with a particularly strong month last year, while demand for the latest 4x4s rose by 29.1% to 1,632 units.

More fleets went green last month than in any other new numberplate month to date, with new battery-electric vans (BEVs) continuing to rise – up 14.7% to 2,906 units.

Only December 2023, at 2,964 units, has had a higher monthly BEV registration total than March 2024.

It means the very greenest vans comprised 5.5% of the entire LCV market, but that was up only slightly from 5.3% in March last year.

With manufacturers now mandated to achieve increasingly ambitious proportions of zero emission sales – 10% of manufacturers’ new LCV sales have to be zero emission this year – the SMMT is urging swift action to improve the confidence of operators large and small plus the self-employed to switch to the growing range of BEV models.

Maintaining existing purchase incentives is essential, it said, but so is urgent action to address the concerns of some businesses.

This includes tackling charging anxiety by ramping up van-suitable public infrastructure across the UK, from motorways to residential streets, so that operators can be fully confidence to charge wherever and whenever they need.

It also highlighted the disparity between the cost of VAT on public charging and that of private or home charging – four times the difference – and said it was another obstacle for firms wanting to switch to a net zero fleet, which the SMMT said was essential if the UK’s world-leading net zero market was to be met.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: ‘A strong new plate month with the greatest number of zero-emission vans joining UK roads is a bellwether of the sector’s progress, cutting emissions while keeping British businesses on the move.

‘Industry is ready to deliver further, but with green uptake still below mandated levels, swift action is needed to give new van buyers the confidence to go electric.

‘Rapid delivery of van-suitable public charging points and removing the hurdle of taxation on their use are key to greener fleets and a greener future.’

The Ford Transit Custom was March’s best-selling LCV by far with 7,809 units shifted, while its Transit stablemate was second with 4,864 and the Blue Oval’s Ranger came third with 2,881.

In fourth place was the Volkswagen Transporter (2,773), and fifth was the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (2,089), with the Vauxhall Vivaro sixth (1,977).

Rounding off the top 10 were the Ford Transit Connect (1,959), Renault Trafic, pictured (1,903), Citroen Berlingo (1,876) and Toyota Hilux (1,711).

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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