New van registrations grew in December, reversing the trend of the previous three months, helping to ensure that the market ended the year 2.4% up on 2018 figures – and the third best year on record – according to new figures.
In December, registrations of light commercial vehicles were up by 7.8% year-on-year, with 27,551 vans up to 3.5t registered, and 1,028 rigids up to 6t, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The uptick was attributed to the impact of regulatory changes easing and attractive offers on new models. All types of LCV experienced an increase in registrations in December, bar 4x4s, which had no change.
The increase comes after three months of declining registrations, which was largely down to the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) at the beginning of September.
In December, the biggest selling van was the Ford Transit Custom, which shifted 3,600 units. This was nearly double that of its nearest rival, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which sold 1,931. The third most popular van was the Volkswagen Transporter (1,911 sold), followed by the Vauxhall Vivaro (1,644) and Ford Transit (1,643).
Across the full year registrations were up by 2.4% as 365,778 new models hit UK roads. This was the third highest total on record, with growth coming despite political and economic uncertainty for much of the year, and reflecting buyers keen to switch to the latest low emission models to comply with clean air zone requirements and meet demand brought about by the rise of online shopping and corresponding deliveries.
All van segments saw growth during 2019, with small vans weighing less than 2t up by 4.4%, medium vans weighing 2-2.5t up +10.5% and larger vans weighing 2.5-3.5t up by 1.2%. But demand for new pickups and 4x4s fell by 1% and 9.7% respectively, although the combined loss represented just 733 units.
The biggest selling van over the year was the Ford Transit Custom, which sold almost exactly double that of its nearest competitor. It sold 52,512 units, while the Ford Transit sold 26,237. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was the third biggest seller of the year (25,862 units), followed by the Volkswagen Transporter (19,608) and the Vauxhall Vivaro (18,029).
The biggest selling manufacturer over the year was Ford, which sold 117,500 units – which equates to 32% of the market. However, this was a 6.8% fall in sales compared to 2018.
Meanwhile, Vauxhall had a successful 2019 with sales leaping by 27% – 35,949 sold – as did Mercedes-Benz, its models selling 36,982 units, a rise of 14.7%. The biggest jump in sales over 2019 came for MAN, although from a small base – their sales rose by 144.7% to 1,598.
Other than Ford, the company to experience the biggest drop in sales was Toyota, whose sales fell by 10.5% in 2019. That said, their December year-on-year sales were up by 70%, which could indicate that stronger times are ahead.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “A healthy van market is good news for the industry, environment and exchequer and so the rise in 2019 registrations is very welcome.
“As we enter a new decade, however, we need this upward trend to continue if we are to address environmental concerns. The quicker these new vehicles become commonplace, the quicker their positive impact on air quality and climate change will be felt. Manufacturers will continue to invest in new, cleaner technologies but, ultimately, it is businesses that will determine the pace of change. Business positivity is essential to give companies the confidence to invest in their fleets.”