Vauxhall has decided to increase production at Luton as a result.

The UK new van market hit record levels last month as consumers’ desire for home deliveries fuelled demand among businesses. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 30,440 new light commercial vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes were registered in April.

That was the highest total for the month since records began, giving the industry a much-needed shot in the arm after a torrid year. The first coronavirus lockdown last spring caused sales to flatline, with just 3,387 new vans registered during the fourth month of 2020. Last month’s figure represented an increase of almost 800 percent compared with that figure.

Although such huge increases are a little false, last month remains a record breaker, with the SMMT expressing confidence that the market is returning to 2019 levels. The recovery, it says, is driven by “a sustained increase in larger van acquisition” caused partly by demand from the delivery sector and partly by other sectors emerging from lockdown.

Mercedes-Benz Citan delivery van

With that in mind, it’s no surprise the 2.5- to 3.5-tonne van segment remained the most popular. That sector alone accounted for more than 20,000 new van registrations – approximately two-thirds of the total market.

Other success stories included the pick-up truck market, which accounted for 4,134 new light commercial vehicle registrations, or 13.6 percent of sales. That was closely followed by the 2- to 2.5-tonne van segment, which racked up 4,125 registrations, or 13.55 percent of the total. Between them, those three sectors accounted for around 93 percent of all new commercial vehicle registrations.

Ford Ranger Stormtrak and Ranger Wolftrak

Over the first four months of this year, the SMMT says 127,796 new light commercial vehicles have been registered, with 2.5- to 3.5-tonne vans making up 66 percent of those. The overall figure is up by around 80 percent compared with the same period in 2020, and it’s a very marginal increase on the 127,347 such vehicles registered during the first four months of 2019.

“Businesses are investing in new vehicles as they grow in confidence, driven by a more positive economic outlook stimulated by the vaccine rollout,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “There has been particular uplift in larger van uptake, both from established demand in home delivery, but also more broadly as other sectors emerge from lockdown looking to maximise their payload efficiency. With a fragile supply chain still subject to risk of disruption and ongoing Covid restrictions, there is some way to go before we can say business is back to normal, but after a very difficult year, the outlook is much brighter.”

In fact, the outlook is so bright that Vauxhall’s parent company Stellantis has announced plans to reintroduce the night production shift at its factory in Luton. According to the Franco-Italian company, the shift will restart in June “in order to satisfy the increased demand for the Vauxhall Vivaro, Opel Vivaro, Citroën Jumpy/Dispatch and Peugeot Expert light commercial vehicles”.