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WLTP roll-out triggers 23.5% UK van registrations decline

The roll-out of the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure for vehicle emission into the commercial vehicle sector has triggered a 23.5% decline in September registrations.

A year on from the 20.5% decline in new car registrations – reported by the Society of Motor Manufacturers – which accompanied the legislation’s introduction to the car sector, van sales have felt the brunt of manufacturer supply issues.

The SMMT said in a statement issued today (September 4) that “regulatory changes and economic uncertainty” had both impacted the sector’s performance, however as registrations of small and medium vans rose, but larger vans, pickups and 4x4s all suffered declines.

In total, 41,216 LCVs were registered in the month, down some 12,632 units on September 2018.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “These figures are unusual as LCV registrations have been growing this year, but the impact of regulatory changes, coupled with ongoing political and economic uncertainty, distorted the market in September.

“Registrations for the year-to-date are still healthy, however, but for this to be maintained we need stability restored, which should give renewed confidence to businesses to invest in their fleets.”

The SMMT reported that registrations of larger vans weighing 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes fell by 35.2% in the month while conversely the market for small vans weighing less than two tonnes was up 12.3%, with medium vans weighing two-to-2.5 tonnes also up (16.8%).

Meanwhile, the pickup and 4x4 segments both fell, 18.8% and 48.4%, although combined they accounted for less than a fifth of the whole market.

September’s losses follow a period of sustained growth, with LCV registrations rising in every month of 2019 to August, the SMMT said, as buyers responded to a wide range of deals and a raft of new models.

In the year-to-date the market is up 4.5%, with more than 286,000 new vans hitting the road, most (62.2%) weighing 2.5-to-3.5 tonnes.

Speaking to AM at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show Fiat Professional’s head of sales, Richard Chamberlain, said that his brand was “well-placed” to grow its UK sales volumes in 2019 despite the anticipated impact of WLTP on the LCV sector.

The Italian commercial vehicle brand, which has 72 franchised retail sites across the UK and a network of 140 aftersales providers, had suspended orders of its LCVs as production patterns were switched to accommodate vehicles that meet Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) standards

Orders were closed on Euro 6B vehicles all production and most of the manufacturer’s stock has been sold and the latest prices for Fiorino, Doblo and Ducato are now being communicated to the network.

Chamberlain said that lessons had been learned by many manufacturers with the roll-out of WLTP into the car sector last September, but suggested LCVs were “a different animal”.

He said: “Uncertainty in the market is one thing but when you have model conversions, as you do in LCV, you’ve got to manage customer supply lines and the transition of Euro 6B stock.

“We’re not talking about cars, where there might be five or six variants, we’re talking about 130 variants of Ducato. That’s significant.”

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