The number of new light commercial vehicles registered in the UK fell for the fifth consecutive month in May, with sales down by more than a quarter. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed exactly 22,000 new vehicles, including vans, pick-up trucks and commercial 4x4s were registered on British shores last month.

As usual, the vast majority of those commercial vehicles, all of which weigh less than 3.5 tonnes, were heavier vans that tip the scales between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes. Almost 16,000 such vehicles were registered – a 19.4-percent reduction compared with May 2021 – giving them a market share of 72 percent.

Vans weighing between two and 2.5 tonnes fought off pick-up trucks for the second-highest market share, but both sold in similar numbers. Some 2,636 medium-sized vans were registered, compared with 2,611 pick-up trucks, although both figures were down compared with May 2021’s sales.

Ford E-Transit Custom

Admittedly, last May’s light commercial vehicle registrations were the highest in history, with pent-up demand unleashed on the market after coronavirus lockdowns, but the figures are still bleak (down 21.5 percent) when compared with the May average for the five years before the pandemic.

The SMMT has laid the blame squarely at the door of global supply shortages, which have seen manufacturers struggle to get hold of components. The global microchip shortage has been a particular problem for car makers, but supply has also been impacted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

First electric van prototypes in build at LEVC

As a result of this fifth consecutive month of decline for the light commercial vehicle sector, the new van market is not in the position it was at this point last year. During the first five months of 2022, just under 118,000 light commercial vehicles were registered, whereas the first five months of 2021 saw that figure stand at 157,150.

The news follows another dismal month for new car registrations, which are also being hit by the problems with the global supply chain. The SMMT’s data showed just under 125,000 new cars were registered in the UK last month, down 20.6 percent on the same month in 2021.

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

“Global supply chain shortages continue to hold back the market following last May’s post-pandemic bounce back,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Manufacturers have, however, worked hard to get the latest zero-emission vans to customers, more than doubling their market share. However, this is still an emerging market and everything must be done to encourage drivers to switch to zero emission commercial vehicles if we are to achieve our net zero goals. The industry will tackle the supply chain challenges undermining delivery but we urgently need a van plan to address the paucity of dedicated commercial vehicle infrastructure, as well as incentives to boost the sector’s electric transition.”