UK LCV market starts 2023 positively

09 February 2023

LCV

Andy Picton, chief commercial vehicle editor at Glass’s (part of Autovista Group), takes a look at how the UK’s new and used light-commercial vehicle (LCV) markets began 2023.

The year started positively for the UK’s LCV market, with 25.8% year-on-year growth in January. There were 22,098 registrations recorded in the month, up from 17,566 units a year earlier. Of those, 993 (4.5%) were battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), up from 647 units in the first month of 2022.

Compared with January 2022, with the exception of vans below two tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW), all sectors recorded increases in registrations. The pickup segment jumped by 20.6%, while vans between 2 and 2.5 tonnes GVW rose 3.3%. Vans between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes GVW made up over 70.3% of all LCVs registered in the month – recording a 34.1% rise.

The Ford Transit Custom started 2023 strong, finishing January as the best-selling LCV in the UK. With three other models finishing in the top 10, Ford was dominant. The Ford Ranger came in third, the Transit in fifth and the Transit Connect in eighth. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter claimed sixth (1,266 units), the Renault Trafic seventh (1,196 units), the Toyota Hilux ninth (705 units) and the Citroen Relay tenth (686 units).

Although January marked a strong start to 2023, the majority of LCV deliveries were for orders placed many months ago. Persistent raw-material and supply-chain challenges, rising costs, and restrictions on production will continue to hamper the industry. Add into the equation that three of the top 10 models in 2022 will be replaced this year and many believe that the early forecasts already look optimistic.

Production difficulties will start to ease as the year progresses. But as energy and raw material costs remain sky-high and component shortages push lead times out to 12 months on some models, a full recovery of the new-LCV market is still some way off.

Demand for battery-electric vans continues to grow. Their 4.5% market share is up from 3.7% in January 2022, with the potential to reach 8.7% (28,000 units) in 2023 and 12.2% (42,000 units) in 2024, according to the latest quarterly forecast from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

These are ambitious targets that will only be achieved if public charging infrastructure is improved and geared towards van operators. The number of LCV-suitable charging points must grow across the UK alongside continued incentives to encourage van buyers to make the switch to zero-emission mobility.

Business-as-normal?

The intermittent supply of vehicles into the used market last year forced buyers to pay heavily for the best examples. This pattern looks set to continue into 2023 where a lack of late-year stock and general variety is still evident. Although the year started positively with an increased number of de-fleets filling auction sites and plenty of business being conducted, a return to ‘business-as-normal’ is still some way off.

Manufacturers will continue to struggle to deliver new vehicles during 2023, leading to sporadic volumes entering the used market. As more Clean Air Zones are introduced and the ULEZ expands, Euro 6 values can be expected to remain strong. Other in-demand models include minibuses, wheelchair-accessible variants, and refrigerated vans.

Large number of de-fleets

Glass’s recorded a large number of de-fleets in January, with stock availability and sales increasing by 36.7% versus December. This increase was also 1.4% higher than in January last year. As a result, average sales prices increased by over £550 (€619) to the highest monthly average price since July 2022.

As with previous months, the most popular used segment was the medium van. These models accounted for 39.6% of all auction sales, while 4×4 stock was the least popular but attracted the strongest average sales prices of £13,746, £200 higher than in December.

The average age of vehicles sold during January decreased by 2.7 months to 78 months. Overall average mileage decreased by 0.75% to 82,051 miles (132,048km) from 82,662 miles last month and is nearly 3,550 miles higher than 12 months ago. Large panel vans unsurprisingly covered more distance than any other model type, averaging 90,420 miles, up 3,664 miles on December.

First-time conversion rates for January rose 4.8% to 80.8% overall, with all segments recording an increase. A shortage of small vans meant these models returned the best conversion rate, at 85.8% (up 5.3% on December). Meanwhile, large panel vans were the weakest at 77.7% (up 5% on December).

Used vehicles observed for sale in the wholesale market last month increased by 0.4% to nearly 39,500 units. Just over 49% of all vehicles on sale were valued at £20,000 or more, while 34.2% were on sale for between £20,000 and £10,000. At the lower end of the market, 12.9% of all vehicles were on sale for between £10,000 and £5,000. Those on sale for less than £5,000 remained steady, at 3.9% of the overall market.