Sales of vans and other light commercial vehicles faltered in March amid ongoing supply chain issues, according to new figures out this week. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed 40,613 new light commercial vehicles were registered on these shores last month.

March is often one of the busiest periods for light commercial vehicle (LCV) makers and dealers thanks to the arrival of the new number plate. This year, the arrival of the ‘22’ registration saw more LCVs registered in March than in January and February combined.

Even so, last month would have been hard pressed to beat March 2021, which saw pent-up demand cause the largest increase in LCV registrations since 1999. More than 56,000 new LCVs were registered in the third month of last year – around 15,500 more than in March 2022. That means last month saw sales fall by more than 27 percent compared with the same month in 2021, and compared with pre-pandemic March 2019, sales were down by 38.6 percent.

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Sales were down across the board, with registrations of the largest vans – those weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes – down by 18.9 percent. However, such vans still account for more than two-thirds of the total UK market, with more than 29,000 examples sold.

Among smaller vans and pick-up trucks, meanwhile, sales were even slower. Around 900 vans weighing less than two tonnes were registered – down from more than 3,000 in March 2021 – while pick-up truck registrations fell by almost half (48.4 percent) compared with the same month last year as 4,457 hit the roads.

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Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, blamed operator investment and supply shortages – and the microchip shortage in particular – for the poor performance. However, he welcomed the government’s decision to continue supporting electric vans with grants, albeit while encouraging greater investment in infrastructure to help operators make the switch.

“The light commercial vehicle market has made a slower start to 2022 compared with the first quarter of last year, reflecting the cyclical nature of fleet operator investment, amid global supply shortages and increasing economic pressures,” said Hawes. “Targeted support from the government is needed to encourage fleet renewal and a full zero emission van market. The expansion of the Plug-in Van Grant will be a positive for the sector, but equally there needs to be a greater roll-out of suitable charge points to ensure fleet and self-employed van operators in all regions can make the transition.”