The UK’s light commercial vehicle (LCV) market saw its first decline since December 2020 in July as registrations fell 14.8%, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Supply issues – most notably of semiconductors –  resulted in only 23,606 vans being registered during the month.

“Despite this challenge, the month’s performance was only a moderate 4% decline compared to the pre-pandemic five-year average,” SMMT said.

Demand for larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes, which accounted for the majority (70.5%) of all commercial registrations in the month, fell 5.2% to 16,653 vehicles. Other van segments saw more decline 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.

But year-to-date registrations remained up 57.5% on last year with sales increasing by 1.1% over the pre-pandemic 2015-2019 five-year average.

So far this year, 215,119 new vans have been sold, driven by growth in demand from operators who continue to renew and expand fleets, notably to meet rising demand for online deliveries and construction.

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Despite July’s decline, SMMT’s latest quarterly forecast anticipates the LCV market to increase by 24.3% to 363,880 units in 2021. This is a modest reduction of 1.5% from April’s forecast of 369,000 units 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, the strength of the construction sector and as the economy opens up further, we expect the market to end the year almost back to 2019 levels.”