White van man back on the road as new vehicle sales accelerate

Stricter rules to reduce exhaust emissions have also helped with the rise in registrations of newer vehicles

More businesses registered new trucks and vans in the last three months than in any quarter for the last 27 years, in a sign that the white van man, much maligned for his unruly driving, is far from dead.

Motoring experts hailed the figures as a sign that the UK’s economy was recovering and businesses were more willing to make long-term investments.

It comes less than a week after sales of cars hit record highs in March, thanks in part to bosses buying fleets of cars for their companies.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders reveals today that 108,456 vans and trucks were registered between January and March – twice the number registered in the same period at the height of the recession in 2009.

Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive, explained: “Commercial vehicles are crucial to the functioning of Britain’s economy and these latest figures paint a very encouraging picture. As business confidence grows, demand for the latest vans and trucks is now back to pre-recession levels – outpacing the rest of Europe.”

He added that there had been pent-up demand by some companies which had held off buying vehicles in recent years and have been attracted now by continuing low inflation rates and stronger financing deals offered by manufacturers.

The Ford Transit is the most popular by far, selling 12,627, followed by the Vauxhall Vivaro and Volkswagen Transporter, selling 7,449 and 5,765 respectively.

The SMMT also pointed out that the rise and rise of online shopping and the cut-throat nature of delivery services has also seen demand for vans grow significantly.

There were 97,775 vans registered in the past three months, up 22.3 per cent on the same period a year ago, with annual registrations almost hitting an all-time high.

Online sales, and the need for more home delivery, is also helping to boost the UK van market, which is outperforming Germany and France – the first and second biggest market for vans and trucks in Europe.

Stricter rules to reduce exhaust emissions have also helped with the rise in registrations of newer vehicles. All new vans from September must adhere to the rules, known as Euro-6.

The rise in sales is also a welcome boost for UK manufacturing, with several major manufacturers producing vans and trucks here.

It comes after more cars were registered in March than any other month for the last 16 years. A total of 492,774 cars were registered – the best since the twice-yearly number plate changes introduced in 1999 – making March the 37th consecutive month of growth for the UK’s new car market.

Fleet car sales were up 11.6 per cent, while registrations so far this year were up 6.8 per cent to 734,588.

The biggest-selling cars in the UK remain Ford’s, with 63,470 new cars registered in March, followed by Vauxhall (48,689) and Volkswagen (38,685).