Increasing demand for home delivery during the Coronavirus lockdown has led to vans taking a larger share of sales on the BuyaCar platform.
In March, van sales increased 20-fold as a proportion of total vehicle sales on the platform. Searches for vans and other commercial vehicles also increased by 30% as a proportion of website queries about vehicle body types.
Analysts at BuyaCar believe the boom in home deliveries, prompted by public movement restrictions and social isolation measures, is a major factor behind the relative resilience of commercial vehicle sales on the platform.
The latest SMMT figures show that car sales dropped by 44% in March and van sales were 54% down, as a result of the outbreak. But, according to BuyaCar, essential vehicle purchases are continuing.
“To be clear, this is not a boom in commercial vehicle sales but a massive realignment in their significance to many of our customers, the people for whom a reliable vehicle is a necessity rather than a want,” said Andy Oldham, chief executive of BuyaCar.
“These figures reveal a very different market than normal and provide a stark illustration that for many people a new vehicle is not a discretionary purchase but a necessity.
“In 18 years of operation we have never seen much change in the proportion of van sales compared with cars, but to see a 20-fold increase in just one month shows just how COVID-19 is currently changing everything,” he added.
While discretionary car-buying activity has ground to a halt, key workers, such as NHS staff, food supply chain workers and others who maintain Britain’s essential services, still require vehicles.
Buyacar said it is now operating only to serve those key workers, tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians who often need to carry out essential repairs or emergency work and those who need a car for essential journeys, for example to support vulnerable people.
The company has already delivered 27 cars to key workers across Britain, including to 15 NHS staff working at all levels of the health service.
It is providing free delivery, contactless vehicle handover and donating a free warranty. The discount package is designed as a gift to help those workers who urgently need to replace their car, typically to avoid the increased infection risk of using public transport to get to work.