UK new van registrations rose again in March, marking three consecutive months of growth as the new ‘23’ number plates arrived. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the market grew by almost a fifth compared with the same month in 2022.

In total, 47,634 new vans and pick-up trucks weighing up to 3.5 tonnes were registered in the UK last month, up 17.3 percent compared with last March. It’s the third consecutive month of growth for the sector, and it leaves the market up 17.4 percent for the first quarter of the year.

Although March was a relatively strong month for the market thanks to the arrival of the new ‘23’ registration plate, the SMMT said the growth was “amplified” by a weak showing in March 2022. A year ago, the industry was suffering heavily at the hands of global supply chain shortages, and just over 40,000 new vans were registered – a decrease of 27.6 percent.

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As a result, and despite the growth seen in January and February, the number of first-quarter registrations seen in 2023 is still 15.1 percent lower than during the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

That said, the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said the result was “positive”, with growth in several areas of the market. The biggest sellers are almost always vans weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes, and that story remained the same in March, with such vehicles making up just under two-thirds of all registrations.

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However, that portion of the market grew by just under five percent, whereas stronger growth was seen in the smaller pick-up truck market, which was up by 29.3 percent compared with the same month last year. But the greatest growth was seen in the commercial 4x4 market, which almost trebled in size. However, with 1,264 such vehicles registered, it remains a small fraction of the total.

Electric van registrations also grew, up 32.7 percent in March and up by 4.6 percent in the first quarter of the year. However, with a market share of just five percent in the first three months of 2023, the market remains small.

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Hawes said the industry would need increased charging infrastructure if it is to accelerate the uptake of electric vans.

“A solid first quarter of growth for the van market is a positive outcome, given the importance of vans in keeping Britain’s businesses on the move,” he said. “These working vehicles are also essential in helping Britain decarbonise, so all barriers to uptake must be removed to accelerate fleet renewal. The most important requirement now is the urgent development of widespread and dependable van-suitable charging infrastructure to bolster operator confidence to make the switch.”