UK new van sales were up by more than a fifth in 2021 after manufacturers and dealers enjoyed the market’s best December since 2015. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed sales were almost identical to levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, the SMMT said new light commercial vehicle sales exceeded 355,000 in 2021, representing a 21.4-percent increase compared with 2020. That figure also leaves the new light commercial vehicle market just 2.8 percent behind 2019’s total, suggesting the market has largely recovered from the coronavirus crisis.

As usual, the most popular vans in the sector, which includes all commercial vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, were larger vans weighing 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes. With almost 244,000 examples registered last year, these vehicles accounted for more than two-thirds (68.6 percent) of all new vans sold.

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The second most popular types of van were those weighing between two and 2.5 tonnes, with more than 47,000 registrations. Even so, that segment of the market saw sales drop by 0.8 percent compared with 2020. The third most popular sector, however, saw sales rise by 19 percent compared with 2020, as increasing numbers of customers purchased a new pick-up truck. Almost 42,500 of the utilitarian off-road vehicles were registered last year.

Last year also saw record levels of demand for battery-electric vehicles, although with few electric light commercial vehicles on the market, the market share remained small. Nevertheless, more than 12,000 examples were registered in 2021, up 142 percent compared with 2020, taking the market share to just over 3.5 percent.

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According to the SMMT, the increase in sales was partly down to strong underlying demand from “key sectors” including construction and home deliveries. Although the organisation confessed that issues arising from the new Omicron variant of coronavirus and the ongoing component shortages have stifled supply.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said manufacturers were “working hard” to ensure vehicles were delivered.

“After a difficult 2020, the commercial vehicle sector has bounced back, with registrations recovering to just shy of pre-Covid levels,” he said. “While demand has remained robust, there is still the potential for market volatility with the Omicron variant and component shortages threatening supply chains. Manufacturers are working hard to ensure deliveries, and, with a record number of battery electric vans registered this past year, customers can be assured that more of these new technology vehicles will be available to keep society and businesses moving in an increasingly zero-emission manner.”