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December 6, 2021updated 20 Dec 2021 12:00pm

Commercial vehicle sales shine in the UK

Best November result on record.

By Graeme Roberts

Unlike the car market, the UK light commercial vehicle (LCV) market recorded the best November in its history in 2021 with 31,320 new vans registered according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The number of vans reaching Britain’s roads rose 11.4% on the pre-pandemic average for November, following two previous months of decline.

With the sector still suffering from significant semiconductor shortages, stability of supply remained a key issue and market volatility was likely well into 2022, SMMT said.

With a September recovery in the construction sector and growing business investment, especially in online retail, demand had been increasing and manufacturers had battled to fulfil orders despite supply constraints.

Growth was recorded in all van classes excluding those weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes, which fell 19.6% to 1,361 units. However, this weight class had enjoyed growth in previous months, indicating how delivery had been impacted by the unpredictable supply of semiconductors.

Uptake of vans weighing more than 2.5 tonnes grew by 7.7% compared to a locked down November 2020, reaching 22,363 units, or 71.4% of the market.

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Meanwhile, the pickup market grew 31.2% while vans weighing more than 2.0 tonnes up to 2.5 tonnes grew 21.2% to 4,779 units.

The most growth was recorded in the traditionally volatile 4×4 market which grew 39.9% to 207 units.

The market is now up 22.8% year to date with “robust underlying demand”.

However, the continuation of this growth into next year will depend not just on supply side but demand side factors, notably the strength of the economic recovery, with rising levels of taxation and inflation, as well as the ongoing impact of the pandemic with the emergence of new variants. Despite the likely volatility, SMMT is still forecasting the LCV market to return to pre-2019 levels in 2022.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “A pre-Christmas boost to van registrations will be welcomed by the industry but it remains a rollercoaster of a market. Demand is clearly robust, but market volatility is likely to remain a feature as supply chain shortages throttle the sector’s ability to fulfil orders. Manufacturers are working hard to try and overcome these shortages and the November deliveries illustrate the success they have been having in the UK. Whilst the outlook remains challenging, customers can be reassured of the industry commitment to the commercial vehicle sector, given its importance to the operation of society and business growth.”

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