UK LCV registrations show promise with increase in 2021

17 January 2022

Andy Picton, chief commercial vehicle editor at Glass’s (part of Autovista Group), studies developments in the UK market for light-commercial vehicle registrations throughout 2021.

The UK’s new light-commercial vehicle (LCV) market bounced back hard in 2021, growing by more than 20% on a pandemic-hit 2020. Manufacturers fought hard to satisfy demand over the year, especially from the home delivery and construction sectors, ensuring that the backdrop of semiconductor supply shortages and debilitating effects of COVID-19 did not overly affect production.

December’s was 7.8% up on 12 months ago and the strongest Christmas month since 2015. The 355,380 LCVs registered in 2021 as a whole was up 21.4% (62,723 units) on 2020. However, this figure was 2.8% down on the 365,778 vehicles registered in 2019, and down 3.1% down on the 366,554 unit 2015-2019 average. During 2021, registrations of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) rose to 12,759, increasing their market share from 1.8% in 2020 to 3.6%.

A mixed performance in December saw the pickup sector increase by 45.4%, with both the Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara excelling. Vans weighing 2.5-3.5 tonnes made up over 71% of all vans registered in the month and increased by 10%. Vans below 2.0 tonnes saw registrations decline 43% compared to December 2020, whilst vans between 2.0-2.5 tonnes registered a 9.3% fall.

Last month concluded a great year for Ford and in particular the Transit Custom. The model finished 2021 not only as the best-selling LCV in December and for the whole 12 months, but it also outsold every single car as well, making it the best-selling vehicle in the UK. The Transit was second, registering 3,210 units in December, and the Ranger was fifth. Another positive month for the Stellantis Group saw the Vauxhall Vivaro, the Vauxhall Movano and the Peugeot Expert feature in third, seventh and ninth respectively. The Mercedes-Benz duo of Sprinter and Vito held eighth and 10th positions, whilst the outgoing Nissan Navara registered enough units to see them finish in fourth. Vauxhall was the UK’s best-selling electric LCV manufacturer, registering 2,916 e-LCVs during the year.

Top five LCV registrations

Full-year 2021 Dec 2021 Dec 2020 
Ford Transit Custom53,394Ford Transit Custom3,723Ford Transit Custom5,230
Ford Transit34,293Ford Transit3,210Volkswagen Transporter2,103
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter21,915Vauxhall Vivaro1,953Ford Transit2,009
Volkswagen Transporter21,190Nissan Navara1,652Mercedes-Benz Sprinter1,763
Vauxhall Vivaro17,957Ford Ranger1,454Ford Ranger1,414

Demand for new vehicles has been positive during 2021, with the outlook for 2022 equally encouraging. Registrations last year easily outstripped 2020 and were not far off pre-pandemic levels, however, concerns remain over market unpredictability. Component and raw material shortages have led to manufacturers prioritising certain models causing supply challenges and extended delivery times. Rising taxation, inflation and utility bills along with the impact of the Omicron variant are also creating market volatility.

Values under pressure

Although the number of units sold dropped substantially in December, average auction prices fell by only 0.4%. Driven by a dearth of quality Euro 6 stock, average prices at auction remain just shy of £10,000 (€11,973).

As has been the case for the whole of 2021, demand for Euro 6 stock has remained strong throughout, with the expectation of more to come in the first quarter of 2022 as more businesses look to prioritise the de-fleeting of Euro 5 stock. Values for these models is starting to ease with demand for stock over six years old noticeably losing its appeal, although older stock with a good pedigree and sensible miles will always find a new home. As greater volumes of this older stock appears in the used market, so values are expected to come under further pressure.

December in detail

Glass’s (part of Autovista Group) auction data shows that the overall number of vehicles sold in December fell by nearly 27% versus November and was 2.5% lower than the same point twelve months ago.

After a record year of high prices and continued demand, there are signs of softening in the LCV market. Average sales prices paid decreased by 0.4% during the month, but remain 16.2% higher than December 2020 and reflect the economic shift to online purchasing and home deliveries and the reduced supply of new vehicles.

The average age of vehicles sold decreased by 1.1 months to 80.7 months in December, whilst the average mileage also decreased, from 83,377 to 83,082 miles over the same period. The latest average mileage for December is 7.3% higher than twelve months ago. First-time conversion rates have dropped from 80.3% in November to 75.4% in December as the age profile and quality of stock changes. Nevertheless, 45.2% of all LCVs sold at auction during the month were over six years old.

Medium-sized vans continue to be the most popular at auction accounting for 35% of all sales during December. Used vehicles observed for sale in the wholesale market over the last month increased by 10.7% to nearly 37,500. Some 42.5% were on sale for over £20,000, 37.7% between £20,000 and £10,000, 14.3% between £10,000 and £5,000, and 5.5% for £5,000 or less.