Increased demand for home deliveries has been credited with causing an increase in commercial vehicle production in the UK. New figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the number of commercial vehicles, including vans, which were built in the UK rose by more than 11 percent.

The SMMT data showed a total of 73,600 new commercial vehicles were built in the UK last year – up 11.3 percent on the 66,116 built on these shores in 2020. The domestic market drove growth, with 35,921 vehicles built in Britain for UK customers – a 27.3-percent increase on 2020.

However, the number of vehicles built for foreign customers fell by 0.6 percent, or around 200 units, compared with the previous year. As a result, the export market accounted for just 51.2 percent of the vehicles built, down from 57.3 percent in 2020.

2019 Vauxhall Vivaro Panel Van

The figures represented a solid recovery for a sector that suffered its worst year since 1933 in 2020 and had to contend with the ongoing global chip shortage. New car production remained down by a third compared with pre-pandemic levels as the supply constraints forced factories to pause output, but the commercial vehicle sector appears to have suffered less from this issue – perhaps due to the relatively small number of vehicles being produced.

The SMMT says the growth was largely down to increased demand for home deliveries during lockdowns – an assertion it says is backed up by the sharp growth in demand for rigid two-axle trucks in 2021.

But although the news looks good, the SMMT has warned commentators to view the results in the context of a “Covid-ravaged” 2020. While output was up compared with the previous year, the 73,600 new vehicles built represented a 14.4-percent reduction compared with the average for the past five pre-pandemic years.

First electric van prototypes in build at LEVC

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, welcomed the growth and congratulated manufacturers on their resilience, but warned that “support” would be needed to ensure the industry could overcome the issues it will face in 2022.

“After the worst year in a lifetime, the growth in production for commercial vehicles during 2021 is extremely welcome,” he said. “Despite a plethora of challenges, manufacturers have remained operational throughout the year. The sector isn’t out of the woods yet, however, and challenges remain heading into 2022. Support will be necessary to ensure the supply chain can overcome ongoing semiconductor-related shortages as well as measures to ensure energy costs do not rise to an extent that it significantly undermines competitiveness.”