The latest registration figures for the new car and new light commercial vehicle markets painted two different pictures, why?

Whilst sales of new cars increased only marginally by +1% from the covid-affected 2020’s market and were down by -28.% from pre-pandemic figures, the van market grew by 21.4% in 2021 vs 2020 and was only marginally down from 2019 (-2.8%).

To explain the logic behind these figures, we must consider a number of factors.

The impact of the semiconductor shortage on supply

Firstly, although the production of vans was impacted by covid-related closures and component shortages, fewer semiconductors are needed to build a van than a car.

The majority of vans are produced in Europe or Turkey. With vans, there are less factory-built options and possible variants. In fact, manufacturers often build vans for stock and dealers tend to sell directly from stock. A large proportion of van buyers generally purchase their vehicles directly from what’s in stock as the need for the product is often immediate.

Another interesting aspect to consider and which differentiates the sales of vans form cars, is that white is still the best-selling, safest colour to stock for vans, whilst with cars there are more options.

Is the perception of diesel the same for cars and vans?

A final, crucial point, is that whilst diesel is clearly on its way out for cars, it remains the most popular choice for vans. Whilst diesel accounted for only 8.2% of new car registrations in 2021 (46.3% petrol; 27.5% BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs and 18% MHEVs); 94.9% of light commercials under 3.5 tonnes sold in 2021 were diesel, with petrol covering only 1.5% of the market and BEVs reaching a modest 3.6% market share.

What should we expect from the van market in 2022?

Although issues around the pandemic and volatility over component shortages that threaten supply will still affect the market opportunities this year, there is optimism that demand will stay strong throughout 2022.

Demand from the construction and home delivery sectors, where businesses have been renewing their fleets, is likely to continue to support the market in the coming months. Also, sales of zero-emission vans will continue to rise, primarily due to the introduction of clean-air zones around the country. However, these Low Emission Zones are also supporting the sale of new diesel vans, as these are built with Euro-6, compliant engines, which means they do not have to pay any fees to enter a low emission zone, even in London.