It's a stark contrast to the struggling car market.

The new light van and pick-up truck market managed growth of almost a quarter last month, despite the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. While the new car market suffered a 35.5-percent drop in registrations, figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed the van market grew by 22 percent.

Although it’s usually one of the year’s weaker months, thanks in part to the registration plate change on March 1, last month was the strongest February for new van registrations since 1998. In total, 17,205 new vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes hit the roads of Britain, with the SMMT claiming the growth was driven by demand from the construction sector and online deliveries.

As such, much of the growth was found at the larger end of the market, with vans weighing 2.5-3.5 tonnes experiencing a 30-percent rise in registrations. But pick-up trucks were close behind, with sales up 26.8 percent compared with the same month in 2020. However, the increased sales of larger vans made the biggest impact, accounting for roughly two-thirds of all vans registered last month.

Mitsubishi L200

In comparison, sales of commercial 4x4s were up 6.3 percent, but that growth only saw registrations grow from 48 in 2020 to 51 in 2021. However, sales of vans weighing between two and 2.5 tonnes were up by nine percent, but the sector still accounted for around 2,900 new vehicles.

The news was less positive for small vans, however, with sales falling by a quarter in February, with just 689 examples hitting the roads of the UK. Aside from the comparatively tiny market of rigid vans weighing between 3.5 and six tonnes, it was the only sector of the van market to shrink last month.

Nevertheless, the outlook is still uncertain. Over the first two months of the year, just over 41,000 new vans have been registered – an increase of around nine percent on the same period of 2020 – but the SMMT says the March results will be a stern test for the health of the sector.

“These figures are welcome news, but it’s important to remember that February is typically a small volume month ahead of the March plate change and we want to see this growth continue throughout the year,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Capitalising on this momentum will be important and an economic plan that encourages growth could help pivot the LCV (light commercial vehicle) market toward full recovery. With a clear roadmap now in place for how the nation can safely emerge out of lockdown, businesses can look to the next few months with increasing confidence and upgrade their fleets with the many latest, most efficient vans on the market.”

2021 Ford Transit Connect