The September light commercial vehicle (LCV) market in declined by –39.5% with 31,535 vans registered according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). However, compared to the pre-pandemic five year September average, the sector was down -41.8% meaning the latest figures are the lowest for a September since 2009, when the market was suffering from the recession brought on by the financial crisis.
Registrations during the month fell by double digits across all weight classes, except 4x4s, with the number of vans weighing between 2.0-2.5 tonnes seeing the largest decline, of -70.1%. Despite comprising the majority of the market in September, heavier vans, which weigh more than 2.5 tonnes, fell by -28.0% and light vans weighing less than or equal to 2 tonnes dropped by -54.6%. Despite the declines in September, heavier van uptake remains robust on 2020, with more than 51,000 additional units registered in the year to date compared to 2020.
The impact of the semiconductor shortage is now becoming more severe, with CV production lines both in the UK and overseas seeing supply bottlenecks. Year-to-date registrations still remain higher than the Covid-affected 2020, up by 28.4% (or 59,156 units), however, the market is still below the pre-pandemic five-year average by -5.9%.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “September was a disappointing month for new van registrations, as the much-documented semiconductor shortage has started to impact supply. Manufacturers are doing all they can to fulfil orders and, after a strong year so far, demand still remains high. With businesses continuing to renew their fleets, there is a greater choice than ever of new zero emission models coming to market, helping ensure the commercial vehicle sector plays its part in decarbonising road transport.”
Jamie Hamilton, automotive director and head of electric vehicles at Deloitte, said:
71-plate a false start
“The lowest September car sales for over two decades will be seen by many in the industry as a false start.
“New plate months should traditionally boost sales, and many had put August’s already disappointing lull down to typical consumer behaviour, holding out for the new 71 plate. Whilst demand for new cars remains strong amongst consumers, today’s figures are reflective of the deepening production challenges the industry faces throughout its supply chain.
Empty pumps fuel EV interest
“Elsewhere, parallel supply chain issues in getting fuel to forecourts in the past few weeks has had the unsurprising consequence of amplifying interest in electric vehicles. EVs gained further market share this month, rising significantly to 15.2% from 10.9% in August. This compares to 2.2% in September 2019; the nearest pre-pandemic comparable.
“Whilst it’s too soon to see any immediate impact of the petrol and diesel shortage on EV sales, the inconvenience of long queues and empty pumps has jump-started many motorists to explore the switch to electric.
Equitable charging required
“With battery electric vehicles outpacing even plug-in hybrid this month, this demonstrates a level of consumer confidence that the charging infrastructure will be in place. However, gaps still remain and a more equitable rollout of public charging points would ensure EVs are also accessible to those households without off-street parking.
“Petrol and diesel shortages may have also inadvertently created some charge anxiety, so ensuring more visible charging points will only strengthen public confidence in EV feasibility.”
Meryem Brassington, electrification propositions lead at Lex Autolease said:
“The rise of EV registrations are now at a UK high, with battery and hybrid vehicles now accounting for 33 percent of the new car market – a major boost as we work towards the 2030 ICE ban deadline.
The recent fuel shortage will only have further heightened awareness of the importance of transitioning to an electric future. As EVs continue to rise in popularity, industry must work collaboratively to ensure there isn’t a tipping point of demand outstripping supply.”