UK van market to see double digit growth this year

UK automotive trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), is predicting that the uptake of electric vans will increase by 64.5% this year, to 28,000 units.

The total light commercial vehicle (LCV) market is also set to grow over the next 12 months, with 321,000 van registrations expected, amounting to an uplift of 13.9% – with a market value of more than £13 billion, a £1.5bn increase on 2022.

There were 282,139 new LCVs registered in the UK in 2022 – a 22.9% decline on the 365,778 units registered in pre-pandemic 2019, and 20.6% down on the 355,380 registered in 2021, when the market bounced back strongly post-pandemic.

The SMMT said that, despite strong order books throughout 2022, performance was held back by persistent supply chain issues, which have restricted production globally, resulting in limited model availability.

Fleets have faced long lead times of up to a year for new vehicles and seen some orders cancelled due to the ongoing shortage of semiconductors and other raw materials.

January’s sales figures for new vans, published by the SMMT on Monday, February 7, suggest some improvement in supply.

UK new LCV registrations grew to 22,098 units in January, a year-on-year increase of 25.8%, representing the first rise in new LCV registrations since the September plate change last year.

Registrations increased across all weight classes, besides small vans weighing up to two tonnes, with deliveries of the most popular vans, those weighing greater than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes, rising by 34.1%, and vans weighing greater than 2 to 2.5 tonnes up 3.3%.

Vans weighing up to 2 tonnes, meanwhile fell by 22.6%. The smaller volume pickup and 4×4 segments grew by 20.6% and 62.7% respectively.

However, Jon Lawes, managing director of Novuna Vehicle Solutions, says that supply chain pressures continue to hamper the sector, despite optimism for an upturn in fortunes in the months ahead driven by a strong order book and the influx of new electric van models for different usages.

“With more than 33,000 electric vans on UK roads last year, fleets are evidently increasingly mindful that they need to transition from ageing and increasingly obsolete vehicles to zero emission alternatives as they reach their renewal cycles in order to navigate the unprecedented cost pressures they face, including the escalation in last mile delivery costs,” he said.

“Businesses urgently need greater confidence and conviction to transform their fleets. Ultimately, as we’re seeing first hand, the catalyst for many drivers to switch to zero emission mobility relies on robust workplace and depot charging infrastructure. It’s critical we work together across the industry to address these issues.”

Record Deliveries Of Electric Vans

January saw record deliveries of battery electric vans for the month, up 53.5a% to 993 units, accounting for one in 22 vans joining UK roads.

Almost 40 plug-in LCV models are currently available and more are in the pipeline this year. However, likes Lawes, the SMMT is calling for Government help to maintain the UK’s position as the second largest van market in Europe, while meeting escalating targets for sales of new zero emission vans from 2024 to 2030.

This, it says, must include binding targets on the rollout of van-suitable charging infrastructure to give drivers and operators the confidence that they will be able to charge affordably whenever and wherever they need.

Similarly, maintaining purchase incentives as part of a long-term approach will be essential, given the additional costs of these new technologies and the need to accelerate zero emission fleet renewal.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “The LCV sector is already delivering growth for the UK in 2023, bucking the recessional economic trends.

“Manufacturers have invested billions to bring choice to the market, especially in electrified vehicles, so harnessing this momentum will be essential to an increasingly green recovery.

“Accelerating electric van uptake means delivering infrastructure and incentives to give every van operator the confidence to make the switch.”

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