January Pickup Sales Fuel 11.9% Rise In Van Registrations

The year got off to a good start for the UK’s van dealers, with an 11.9% rise in new van registrations compared to January 2012. However, a strong rise in pickup sales obscured more modest gains for vans.

The latest commercial vehicle registration figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that while van registrations climbed strongly in the first month of the year, truck sales went into reverse, dropping by 19.6% compared to January 2012.

The changes left truck sales up by 2.1% on a rolling-year basis, while rolling-year van sales remained underwater, down by 6.2% on the preceding twelve month period:

UK van and truck registrations: 2013 and % change on 2012:

January % change Year-to-date % change Rolling year % change
Vans 16,049 11.9% 16,049 11.9% 241,352 -6.2%
Trucks 2,882 -19.6% 2,882 -19.6% 44,998 2.1%
Total 18,931 5.6% 18,931 5.6% 286,350 -5.0%

(All figures courtesy of SMMT)

However, if you look more deeply into these figures, it becomes clear that the rise in ‘van’ registrations was heavily aided by a big increase in pickup and 4×4 registrations — perhaps unsurprisingly, given the weather we’ve had.

In percentage and volume terms, pickups saw the biggest rise in registrations in January, with pickups recording a 34.5% increase in registrations, corresponding to 564 new vehicles registered. The next biggest volume increase was in the 2.0-2.5t van sector, where registrations rose by 20.4% (404 vehicles).

Unfortunately, I reckon the boost in pickup sales could be seasonal, and that February or March will see a return to last year’s lacklustre performance:

SMMT van and truck registrations January 2013

CV registrations rolling years from Dec 2009 to date (courtesy of SMMT)

Despite my reservations, the figures were cautiously good news for the CV industry, which saw registrations fall steadily last year. Commenting on the figures, Nigel Base, SMMT Commercial Vehicle Manager, said:

SMMT van registrations January 2009-2013

SMMT van registrations January 2009-13 (SMMT)

“2013 is set to be a telling year for the commercial vehicle sector with van registrations off to a good start and the truck sector’s performance under close scrutiny ahead of the introduction of Euro 6 from January 2014,” said Nigel Base, SMMT Commercial Vehicle Manager. “Van registrations were up 12% in the month and SMMT forecasts that the light commercial vehicle sector will grow almost 5% over the year, with new models and greater business confidence driving the market.”

One telling statistic is how much lower average registrations are, compared to the 2003-08 period.

You can see the difference in the graph on the right, which leads me to think that it will be many more years before boom-time levels of sales will return.

Smaller truckin’

In the truck sector, the only category to show an improvement in registrations in January was the 3.5t – 6.0t rigid sector, where registrations rose by a whopping 22.8%. This continues a trend I mentioned last year, and must surely be the result of ongoing cost optimisation and improved compliance — both of which are good news, in my opinion.

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