New LCV registrations fell by 11% year-on-year in October – the second consecutive monthly decline – as economic uncertainty and regulatory changes affect buying decisions.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reported that 3,121 fewer models were registered in the month compared to October 2018.
In October, registrations of larger vans weighing 2.5-3.5 tonnes – which represent 60% of total sales in the LCV market – declined by 19.2%. Pickup sales also fell in the month, by 12%.
However, other segments of the sector performed better. For instance, registrations of medium vans weighing 2-2.5 tonnes leapt by 31%. Sales of 4x4s were up 65% – although overall sales are small in relation to the whole the sector. Small vans weighing less than 2 tonnes were up by 2%.
This decline follows a fall in sales in September of 23.5% year-on-year. This fall was fuelled by the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) and ongoing political and economic uncertainty – and this has continued into October.
Despite the negative performance, year-to-date van registrations remain up 3.1% with 311,989 new vehicles joining UK roads so far in 2019.
The best-selling van in October was the Vauxhall Vivaro, which shifted 3,041 units. This was followed by the Ford Transit Custom, which sold 2,450 units, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which sold 1,972 units. In fourth place was the Volkswagen Transporter (1,323 sold), followed by the Ford Transit (1,292).
In the year to date, the Ford Transit Custom is the best-selling van, with 45,866 units sold, more than double the number of its closest rival, the Ford Transit, which has sold 22,836. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is third best seller (21,610 units), followed by the Volkswagen Transporter (16,566) and Vauxhall Vivaro (13,933).
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said, “A second consecutive month of decline for new van registrations gives cause for concern, as uncertainty continues to have a negative impact on the purchasing of big-ticket items. We need to reverse this trend, getting more of the latest models onto our roads to help improve air quality especially in urban areas. Crucial to this will be restoring economic and political stability to the UK, giving businesses the confidence to invest in their fleets.”
Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association, which represents franchised commercial vehicle and car retailers across the UK, agreed that economic uncertainty was playing a part in the fall in sales, but was optimistic about the rest of the year. ““As we enter the final quarter of 2019, we are expecting the market to rebalance as the WLTP changes work through the system,” she said.
“Positively, the market is still up 3.1% year-to-date, however whilst dealers are saying there is still pent-up demand in the market, many buyers are holding off making purchasing decisions until the current political and economic uncertainty stabilises.”