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New van sales fall as businesses scale back investment

Published 09 May 2017

There are growing concerns for the future of Britain’s van market, after new vehicle sales plummeted by almost 19 per cent in April. 

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 22,625 new vans were registered in April - a drop of 18.8 per cent on the same month in 2016. Both the small and large van segments experienced a large decline, with demand for vans under 2.0 tonnes down 37.5 per cent, while vehicles weighing 2.5 - 3.5 tonnes fell by 23.1 per cent.

Demand for pick-ups, however, continued their upward trend, rising 4.5 per cent in April and 17.6 per cent year-on-year.

The numbers follow a challenging Q1 for the UK's commercial vehicle market, with both February and March posting negative registration figures. As a result, year-to-date van registrations are down 4.9 per cent compared to 2016.

"The market needs more support and we'd like to see manufacturers offer more incentives and finance packages to encourage private and business buyers to invest in new vans"

According to industry experts, more needs to be done to support the industry as it faces a dip in demand, with Brexit and the General Election creating uncertainty and forcing businesses to think twice before investing in new vehicles. 

"Given the unprecedented growth in 2016, a drop in demand was expected in 2017. However, the fall in the 2.5 - 3.5 tonne market is very concerning as this makes up 60 per cent of all market volume and is largely driven by business buyers," said Stephen Latham, head of the van and truck division at the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA). 

"Clearly, businesses are pausing before making big purchases, which is understandable given Brexit and the General Election. We anticipate registrations to increase in the coming months, but the market needs more support and we'd like to see manufacturers offer more incentives and finance packages to encourage private and business buyers to invest in new vans," added Latham of the NFDA. 

Understandably, the SMMT - which is the trade body for car and van manufacturers - is more upbeat in its predictions for the future. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive describes April as a "traditionally small month" for van sales and says the market should remain at "historically high level over the course of the year.” However, even through his optimism, Hawes admits that the market's robustness is dependent on business confidence. 

Ford remains the UK's favourite van manufacturer. In April, the Transit Custom and Transit were the first and second best-sellers. The Volkswagen Transporter was third, while the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Vauxhall Vivaro took the fourth and fifth places in the list of best-sellers. 

Lb 4ibcho

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