Ford dominates buoyant UK new-LCV market in April

14 May 2024

April marked the 16th consecutive month of growth for the UK LCV market, with Ford dominating sales. Andy Picton, chief commercial vehicle editor at Glass’s (part of J.D. Power), considers the figures with Autovista24 journalist, Tom Hooker.

A total of 23,889 new light commercial vehicles (LCVs) took to the UK’s roads in April. This marked a year-on-year increase of 5.4%. However, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) slumped 42.4% compared to April 2023.

It was the market’s best April performance in three years, helped by growth across the major weight categories. Last month’s best result came from rigid commercial vehicles between 3.5 and 6 tonnes gross-vehicle weight (GVW). The category surged 122% year on year with 666 deliveries.

Vans under 2 tonnes GVW also saw registrations rise to 604 units, up 41.1% compared to April 2023. Meanwhile, the pickup sector jumped 16.2%, equating to 2,487 deliveries. Vans between 2 and 2.5 tonnes GVW achieved 4,611 registrations, an increase of 6.8%.

With 15,714 units marking a growth of 3.3%, vans between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes GVW accounted for nearly 65.8% of the total LCV market. The only category to suffer a decline in April was 4x4s, down 17.6% with 473 deliveries.

Flawless Ford

Ford took three of the top four spots in April’s LCV registration table, with the Transit leading the way thanks to 2,148 units. The Transit Custom came second, reaching 1,920 deliveries, as the Vauxhall Vivaro rounded out the top three with 1,661 registrations.

The Ford Ranger also had a strong month in fourth, posting 1,416 deliveries. Behind, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter secured fifth thanks to 1,411 registrations, ahead of the Volkswagen (VW) Transporter in sixth (1,218 units). Then came the Ford Transit Connect in seventh (1,003 units).

Continuing Stellantis’ positive April, the Vauxhall Combo came eighth (951 units) and the Peugeot Partner placed in tenth (829 units). The Renault Trafic slotted between the two in ninth with 852 units.

Muted electric performance

Just 861 new BEVs were registered last month, compared to the 1,494 units recorded one year ago. This equated to a 42.4% delivery decline for the technology. Its market share also plummeted, down 3 percentage points (pp) to 3.6%.

Across the first four months of 2024, 5,800 BEVs have been delivered, slumping 3.1% compared to the same period last year. The powertrain accounted for 4.9% of all registrations, down 0.5pp.

The results reflect an LCV market that is struggling to integrate BEVs into everyday businesses. With buyers lacking confidence, maintaining the Plug-in Van Grant and installing a dedicated LCV network of public high-speed chargers appears vital.

Vauxhall recorded the most electric LCV deliveries in April, with 235 registrations accounting for 24.7% of the market. Ford came second with 130 units (13.7% market share) and Maxus took third thanks to 122 deliveries (12.8% market share). VW posted 116 registrations in fourth (12.2% market share), while 107 units meant Nissan came fifth (11.3% market share).

Vauxhall also had the best-selling BEV model, as the eCombo achieved 129 deliveries. Next came the VW ID. Buzz Cargo with 116 registrations, ahead of the Nissan Townstar EV in third (107 units). The Vauxhall Vivaro Electric finished fourth (106 units) and the Ford E-Transit rounded out the top five (87 units).

This year the UK’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate will require 10% of LCVs sold to emit no CO2 at the tailpipe. However, only four companies currently appear on track to meet this target. Between January and April, these manufacturers were Peugeot (13.8%), Maxus (12.6%), Nissan (10.4%) and BYD.

BEVs fall behind

An additional 94 BEVs above the 3.5 tonnes GVW from Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Maxus, Renault Trucks, Fiat and Iveco were registered during the month. This gave a total of 955 BEV deliveries last month, over 2,000 units below March’s figure.

The latest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) outlook expects the UK’s new LCV market to grow by 3.3% to 353,000 registrations this year. However, the BEV market share has been revised to 8.3%, down from 9.4% in the January outlook. BEV volumes are still forecast to rise by 44.1% in 2024 to 29,000 units.

This means uptake is set to remain below the sales targets set for brands in the Vehicle Emissions Trading Scheme (VETS). With some manufacturers struggling to meet targets, BEV sales could become prioritised with vehicle prices dropping to entice buyers. At the same time, the sale of petrol and diesel products could be diverted to other countries to avoid heavy fines.

However, through VETS, manufacturers can sell, buy, bank, borrow or convert CO2 emission allowances to help meet targets.

Used LCV sales soften

Throughout the first quarter and at the start of the second, used-LCV prices have started to soften. This is expected as stock volumes have increased. So far in 2024, clean, low-mileage stock has been selling well regardless of vehicle specification. In contrast, higher-mileage examples requiring more preparation before sale have seen values struggle.

Sales volumes increased in April, with Euro 6 vehicles making up over 75% of the used market. The average age of sold stock shortened by 1.3 months to 51.9 months, while average mileage dropped 6.5% to just over 68,500 miles (110,240km). The average used LCV selling price was £9,950 (€11,567), up £125 on March. Euro 5 stock accounted for 21.4% of sales, down 3.7% on the previous month.

Sitting at nearly 1.4%, used electric vans made up the remaining sales at auction, falling 0.3% compared to the previous month. The average age of these vehicles was 70.3 months (up 9.9 months) with an average mileage was just over 41,725 miles. The average selling price for electric vans was just under £4,200, declining over £800 from March.

Sales prices surge

Sales volumes surged by nearly 3.7% over the month, with average sales prices increasing by 4.3% across April. Yet, this figure was still 13.7% below price levels from 12 months ago.

Increasing sales prices were bolstered as the average age of the sold stock fell from 78.9 months to 73.9 months in April. This figure was 8.2 months lower than 12 months ago. Average mileage also dropped nearly 6% over the month to 76,226 miles from over 81,000 miles. This figure was nearly 8% lower than April 2023.

More medium vans were sold at auction than any other vehicle type, accounting for 35.6% of all auction sales. Large vans made up 26.4%, while small vans accounted for 25.8%.

Volumes of 4x4 stock sold generated only 12% of all sales but attracted the highest average sales price of £12,814, up £561 from March. Meanwhile, large vans covered more distance than any other LCV type, at an average of 80,267 miles. This was a drop of 4,961 miles on the previous month and over 2,150 miles lower than in April 2023.

First-time conversion rates fall

First-time conversion rates for April reduced by 3.7pp to 72.7% overall and sat 10.2% lower than the same period one year ago. The best conversion rates were achieved in the small panel van sector at 79.4%, up 0.2pp on March. In contrast, a conversion rate of 69.6% in the medium van sector returned the lowest, down 6.4pp on the previous month.

The number of used LCVs sold in the retail market last month increased by 2.5% to just over 44,450 units. This was made up of 94.2% of diesel models, as BEVs accounted for 3.6%.

Out of all vehicles on sale, 42% were valued at £20,000 or more, while 38% were on sale for between £20,000 and £10,000. Vehicles on sale in the £10,000 to £5,000 price bracket made up 15.7% of the overall market, and 4.3% were on sale for less than £5,000. The average age of these vehicles fell to 55 months from 57 months. Average mileage also reduced, dropping 2.3% over the month to just over 58,400 miles.

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