Supply shortages stunt new van sales but market expected to recover

The light commercial vehicle market saw its first decline since December 2020 as July registrations fell -14.8%, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Supply issues – most notably of semiconductors – has meant only 23,606 vans were registered during the month. Despite this challenge, the month’s performance was only a moderate -4.0% decline compared to the pre-pandemic five-year average.

Demand for larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes, which comprise the majority (70.5%) of all commercial registrations in the month, saw a decrease of -5.2% to 16,653 vehicles. Other van segments saw more significant declines in demand compared to 2020, with registrations of vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes down -38.2% and those of vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes down -41.4% to 907 and 2,680 vehicles respectively.

However, year-to-date registrations remain up 57.5% on last year – some 78,542 more units – with the market also increasing by 1.1% on the pre-pandemic 2015-2019 five-year average.2 In total 215,119 new vans have exchanged hands so far in 2021. The increase in van sales over the course of the year has been driven by growth in demand from operators who continue to renew and expand their fleets, notably to meet rising demand for online delivery business and the construction sector.

Even with July’s decline in registrations, SMMT’s latest quarterly forecast anticipates the LCV market to increase by 24.3% to 363,880 units in 2021. However, this is a modest reduction of -1.5% from April’s forecast of 369,000 units, and which would leave it just shy of the total number of vans registered in 2019.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “While July’s decline in the new van market is disappointing, it must be viewed in context against the semiconductor shortages currently challenging the global industry.

“Given the shift to home-deliveries, strength of construction sector and as the economy opens up further, we expect the market to end the year almost back to 2019 levels. Fleet renewal is critical, not only to ensure the newest, cleanest and greenest vans enter UK roads, but to enable the UK to meet its ambitious green targets.”