It appears 2021 hasn’t started as bad as some people predicted considering we effectively have been in a lockdown for the whole month of January. That’s certainly the way it looks according to the latest figures released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as van registrations rose by 2% on 2020 figures.
Registrations rose 2.0% in January with 24,029 of the latest, low emission vehicles hitting UK roads as new models and deals drove fleet renewal. Although the fluctuating nature of fleet renewal often impacts the first month of the year in particular, 2021 opened with the highest volume January since 1990, 10.5% ahead of five-year average.
Despite the good start, the SMMT still predicts light commercial vehicle registrations to rise 17.5% to 343,850 by year end but this is substantially down from earlier predictions of 375,000 vehicles.
Nearly all van segments experienced a decline but the larger vans weighing between 2.5-3.5 tonnes saw 25.4% growth, registrations of small vans weighing less than or equal to 2.0 tonnes halved (-50.1%), the market for medium vans weighing more than 2.0-2.5 tonnes declined by -16.2% and demand for new pickups and 4x4s fell by -25.8% and -30.6% respectively.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “January’s figures are welcome news, particularly after the difficult past year. Although one month’s performance does not full recovery make, the future must involve measures that can deliver long-term changes for the sector if we are to meet ambitious targets and address both climate change and air quality goals. The fastest way to do this is by encouraging uptake of the latest low emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type, and business confidence remains vital for this transition.”
Latest SMMT analysis reveals that 2020 recorded the lowest figure for average CO2 emissions derived from LCVs, down -1.8% on 2019 to 162.8g/km. January 2021 saw a rise of low emission LCVs, with battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share rising to 2.22% with 533 battery plug-in vans joining UK roads. Meanwhile, 96.4% of all new vehicles registered are powered by diesel, with fleet renewal to the latest Euro standard technologies crucial for a sustainable transition for the sector. As CO2 emissions targets shift from EU-wide to UK-only from 2021 and demand for heavier vehicles continues to grow, reaching net zero ambitions will depend on creating the right conditions to boost operator confidence.