UK LCV registrations driven by Ford in October as two-tier used market emerges

14 November 2023

October saw registrations of new light-commercial vehicles (LCVs) keep growing in the UK as de-fleeting followed suit. Andy Picton, chief commercial vehicle editor at Glass’s (part of Autovista Group), examines the two markets.

The UK’s new-LCV market grew for the 10th consecutive month in October according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). A total of 26,342 new LCVs hit the road last month, up 17.7% year on year. The tally between January and October reached 284,321 units, a 20.5% increase on the same period in 2022.

Nearly all van segments enjoyed growth last month. Those between 2-2.5 tonnes gross-vehicle weight (GVW) recorded the greatest increase, with registrations up 106.1% year on year (3,801 units). Making up 69% of the market in October, vans between 2.5-3.5 tonnes GVW recorded 18,176 registrations, but this was only up 5.3% year on year.

Pickups achieved growth of 41.1% in the month, with 3,312 new units hitting the UK’s roads. The only segment to see registrations drop in October was vans weighing under two tonnes GVW. Falling 20.4%, only 438 of these smaller LCVs were registered, as businesses moved towards larger vans to fulfil their requirements.

The recent market momentum has prompted an upward revision of the SMMT’s 2023 outlook. LCV registrations are now expected to grow by 1.4% by the end of the year, reaching 332,000 units, before creeping forward to 334,000 units in 2024.

Electric-van support needed

Up 19.9% with 24,356 registrations, diesel-powered LCVs continued to make up most of the market in October, with a share of 92.5%. Meanwhile, battery-electric van registrations were down 20.2% to 1,362 units, with a 5.2% share.

Between January and October, all-electric van registrations reached 15,658 units, a 19.8% increase on the 13,065 units registered at the same point last year. With the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate targets now set, the country’s government is being urged to stimulate and support demand for battery-electric vans.

This would mean retaining existing tax incentives for buyers, approving driving licence derogations for those wishing to operate vehicles above 4.25 tonnes and providing a van-specific public charging network that can properly support operators.

Expectations for battery-electric van registrations have been cut by 9% to 21,000 units by the SMMT, resulting in a 6.3% market share. In 2024, all-electric vans are forecast to reach 34,000 units, exceeding an overall  market share of 10%.

Ford’s ongoing domination

Ford’s domination of the new-LCV market continued in October, with the Transit Custom (2,841 units) and Transit (2,148 units) in first and second place. Elsewhere within the company’s portfolio, the Ranger took sixth (1,416 units).

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter finished third (1,743 units), while the Volkswagen (VW) Transporter claimed fourth (1,658 units). From Stellantis, the Vauxhall Vivaro (1,572 units) and Citroen Berlingo (760 units) finished in fifth and 10th respectively. The Renault Trafic came seventh (977 units), the Toyota Hilux eighth (869 units) and the Maxus Deliver 9 came in ninth place (783 units).

Two-tier market

As LCV registrations have grown throughout 2023, de-fleeting has also increased. With Euro 6 models now making up nearly 65% of all sales at auction, a widening two-tier market is emerging. There is growing recognition that buyers are actively moving away from stock that is not compliant with the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in London, and clean-air zones (CAZs) in other parts of the UK.

The average age of Euro 6 stock has reached nearly 53.5 months, with a mileage of just over 72,000 miles and a selling price of nearly £10,850 (€12,473). A third of all units sold were Euro 5 or older, with an average age of 143 months, a mileage of over 106,000 miles and a sale price of under £3,000. While rising by nearly 60% in the last three months, used electric vans made up less than 2% of all sales at auction.

Sales volume increases

The volume of used-van sales increased by nearly 9.5% in October. However, average sales prices fell by 12%, reflecting higher levels of similar stock. The dramatic decrease puts price levels 15% below October 2022. The average age of sold vehicles reached 83 months, up 7.8 months on September, and up 4.1 months on 12 months ago. The average mileage increased by 6.8% to 82,584 miles.

More medium vans were sold at auction than any other vehicle type, accounting for nearly 32% of all auction sales. Small vans accounted for just over 30% and large vans 25.2%. Volumes of 4x4 stock accounted for only 12.5% of sales, but attracted the strongest average price of £13,149, down £2,728 on September. Large vans covered more distance than any other model type at an average of 91,559 miles, 1,700 miles higher than the previous month.

First-time conversion rates in October rose to 76.6% but sat below the same point 12 months ago. Broken down, the best conversion rates occurred in the medium panel van sector at 77.2%, while a conversion rate of 75.4% in the 4x4 pickup sector returned the lowest result.

Used vehicles observed for sale in the wholesale market last month increased to nearly 42,500 units. 46.7% of all vehicles on sale were valued at £20,000 or more, while 35.4% were on sale for between £20,000 and £10,000. At the lower end of the market, those vehicles on sale for between £10,000 to £5,000 made up 13.7% of the market, while 4.2% were up for less than £5,000.