UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations ended 2020 down by 20%, with the van market rounding off the year in decline following three months of growth, according to the latest figures from trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The final figures for 2020 (right-hand column) show Ford’s continuing popularity

All van segments saw a decrease in the year, with small vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes down -34.4%, medium vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes down -15.6% and larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes down -16.5%. Demand for new pickups and 4x4s fell by -32.7% and -10.6% respectively. 

It says that the 292,657 vehicles registered in 2020, was due to the “impact of Covid and uncertainty over the future relationship with the EU” which brought down demand toward the end of the year, with registrations in the final month of the year dropping -1%, albeit with volumes consistent with previous Decembers.

While throughout the year the LCV market responded to fluctuating demand, flexing to adjust as lockdown measures affected consumer behaviour and business operations, the rise in home deliveries didn’t bring a corresponding sales boost.

The first sub-300,000-van sales year since 2013 delivered a shortfall of more than 73,000 with a cost to the van manufacturing sector of £2bn in retail value.

Despite the sector stepping up to meet demand brought about by the rise of online shopping and corresponding deliveries, the effect of the pandemic on other businesses, and thus the wider economy, has overall subdued demand, shrinking the van market by a fifth in 2020, adds the SMMT.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Undeniably the LCV market, having shrunk by a fifth, has a lot of hurdles to overcome as we enter 2021.

“However, investment in fleet renewal will be key to driving recovery, and the sector’s resilience, now coupled with added clarity over UK-EU trading relations and the rollout of vaccines, offers hope for both the van market and the wider economy.”