Its fortunes contrast with those of the new car market.

The UK new van market started 2020 where it left off with another strong performance during the first month of the new year.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that more than 23,500 new vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes were registered in January — up 5.9 percent on the same month last year. This follows a 2019 in which new van registrations rose 2.4 percent, with almost 366,000 new vans arriving on the roads of Britain.

As usual, the lion’s share of the vehicles registered last month were vehicles weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes. More than 13,000 such vehicles hit the road in January, giving them a market share of around 56 percent. However, January 2019 saw around a hundred more vehicles registered in that class, leaving January 2020’s sales around one percent down on the figure from 12 months earlier.

2019 Mercedes Sprinter

Similarly, the third most popular category of commercial vehicle to roll out of showrooms is pick-up trucks, of which 3,438 were registered in January. However, that’s almost 10 percent down on the 3,808 registered in the same month of 2019.

But there was significant growth in the second most popular category — the two- to 2.5-tonne vans. Some 4,366 vehicles in this class were registered last month, representing a 41.7-percent increase on January 2019, when just over 3,000 registrations were recorded.

By the same token, the number of sub-two-tonne vans registered also rose significantly, with around 2,500 such vehicles sold in January. That’s up by more than a quarter compared with last January, when fewer than 2,000 hit the road.

2017 Ford Transit Custom

As you might expect given these figures, the best-selling van in the UK in January was the Ford Transit Custom (above), of which more than 3,000 were sold. The larger ‘full-size’ Transit was a distant second, with sales of around 1,900, while the Vauxhall Vivaro was third, with 1,549 registered. Ford’s Ranger was the sole pick-up truck to make the top 10, with just over 1,000 registered in January.

The results come as the new car market continued to struggle in January, with registrations down by just over seven percent. And that figure followed a year in which registrations fell by 2.4 percent, despite massive increases in demand for electric and hybrid cars.

Close up of hybrid nameplate on car body

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the van market’s growth was good news for the sector, and praised the increased demand for electric and hybrid (or ‘alternatively fuelled’) vans.

“January’s growth is welcome news for the commercial vehicle sector,” he said. “Especially welcome is the increased uptake of alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles, essential if we are to 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.”

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter