The UK new van market enjoyed its first month of growth all year in September, as the new ‘72’ plate fuelled demand. The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show just under 35,000 new vans were registered last month, up 10.8 percent on the same month last year.

It’s the first time registrations have increased year-on-year this year, and it comes after the new 72 registration was introduced on September 1. However, the SMMT says the performance was “artificially inflated” in comparison with September 2021, which saw the fewest registrations for the month since the 2009 recession. Compared with the five-year pre-coronavirus average, September registrations were down by more than 35 percent.

As usual, vans weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes made up the majority of registrations, accounting for almost 26,000 of the 34,950 vehicles registered. But it was vans weighing between two and 2.5 tonnes that saw the greatest growth, with sales up by more than 40 percent compared with September 2021.

2020 Mercedes-Benz Vito and eVito

Despite last month’s growth, sales remain firmly down over the first nine months of 2022. With 213,576 vehicles registered in the first three-quarters of the year, sales are down by just over 20 percent compared with the same period last year. Registrations have fallen across the board, with pick-up truck sales down by more than a third, while sales of vans weighing less than two tonnes have almost halved.

Perhaps the most damaging statistic, however, is the 13.9 percent reduction in sales of 2.5-3.5-tonne vans. Over the first nine months of last year, almost 182,000 vehicles of that size were registered, but that has fallen below 157,000 this year. That drop accounts for almost half the total shortfall in sales compared with 2021.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the van market was limited more by supply than demand, with a global chip shortage and ongoing issues caused by the war in Ukraine. However, he warned that rising energy costs could reduce fleet operators’ confidence and cut demand.

“While the full recovery of Britain’s new van market remains some way off, September growth reflects van makers’ efforts to fulfil strong order books despite a paucity of supply,” said Hawes. “High energy costs and wider economic uncertainty, however, will undermine operator confidence, meaning that long-term measures to provide stability and growth are needed if the sector – so often a bellwether for business activity – is to return to its past success.”