The 15.6% increase in van registrations took 2015 into the record books, with 371,830 new light commercial vehicles going onto UK roads last year, passing the previous high set in 2007 (337,741) and adding over 50,000 to the 2014 totals.
The continued growth since 2012 has finally seen the LCV market pass pre-recession levels, thanks in part to the culture of online shopping and the prevalence of attractive finance deals, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which publishes the figures.
“This is excellent news for the commercial vehicle industry, and indeed the economy,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes. “CV demand is a key barometer of UK economic confidence and the market’s strong growth in 2015 was particularly encouraging.”
Predictably, Ford topped the table of manufacturers (see opposite page), completing half a century of leading the UK light commercial vehicle sales chart by recording a six-figure total of just over 100,000 vehicles, more than the combined figure for the next two players in the marketplace. There looks to be little chance of the brand relinquishing leadership any time soon, as it was one of only two brands in the top six to record growth ahead of the market average, and increased its market share by 1.3 percentage points. Last year was Ford’s second highest-ever total of LCVs sold in a single year.
The other manufacturer with strong growth was Vauxhall, which remained in third place but closed the gap on Volkswagen from 7619 to 1355 units as Vauxhall added almost an entire percentage point to its market share.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Volkswagen had a fairly tough 2015, as its two big-selling products – the Transporter and Caddy – both changed to a new generation of model. And, of course, there was that little bout of bad publicity around the company’s attempts to circumnavigate emissions standards.
The top nine manufacturers all followed the same order as in 2014, but there were winners within that. While Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz and Citroen all saw their market share drop, Renault was the biggest growth brand of all the volume manufacturers, taking its market share from 5.6% to 6.8%. Europe’s number one LCV player is still down in seventh in the UK market, but if it continues its 2015 trajectory then moving into the top six is a distinct possibility. The tightest gap in the top 10 was between Fiat and Nissan, where the Japanese brand missed out on passing its Italian rival by just 83 units. In fact, Fiat was the only major LCV player to record a year-on-year fall in registrations, with the Doblo Cargo’s drop of a couple of thousand registrations
in 2015 compared with 2014 proving costly.
The final place in the top 10 changed hands, although it’s only on loan for 12 months for a couple of reasons. Land Rover jumped past Toyota, but there’s only 142 units between them, and given Land Rover has just ended Defender production, and Toyota will launch new Hilux and Proace models by mid-year, it’s safe to say the switch in positions is not a long-term one.
Looking down the top 20 manufacturers, Renault Truck, Iveco and Isuzu Truck all enjoyed massive growth, the latter moving above Great Wall in the LCV sales table by a single unit. At the bottom, Hyundai finds its way into the top 20 at the expense of the discontinued Mini Clubvan.
Moving on to the model chart (see left), Ford’s Transit Custom maintained the table-topping position it secured for the first time in 2014, extending its dominance by adding nearly 10,000 extra registrations to take an 11.5% share of the UK LCV market.
Vauxhall’s Vivaro jumped the full-size Transit and Mercedes Sprinter to slide into second place.
The only model in the top 10 not to increase its year-on-year registrations was Peugeot’s Partner, although that was countered by its Boxer and Expert siblings recording large growth.
A changeover year in model cycles was the main reason behind the Caddy dropping out of the top 10, and the large van market showed increasing diversification. The previous dominant models – Ford’s Transit and the Mercedes Sprinter – both recorded growth well below the market average, in direct contrast to the Peugeot Boxer, Renault Master, Vauxhall Movano and Fiat Ducato in particular, all of which were up by at least 27.5%. The Ducato was actually the fastest-growing LCV of 2015, with the 5217 registrations representing a 73.8% increase, and driving the model into the top 25 chart as the highest new entry. Peugeot’s Expert also entered the chart, dumping out the Nissan Navara and Ford Fiesta van.
Looking at the sectors, there was a surprising variance, with pick-ups, 2.5t-3.5t and 4×4 vans all showing year-on-year increases of more than 20%. Small sub-2.0t vans were behind the market at 8.8% up on 2014, but vans classified by the SMMT as between 2.0t-2.5t – were actually 1.9% down on 2014.
Citroen’s Berlingo regained its light van leadership position after losing it to the Peugeot Partner last year, and Ford’s Transit Connect also passed the Partner, while Vauxhall’s Combo made the top five at the expense of the Doblo Cargo.
The medium van and heavy van segments both had an air of ‘as you were’ about them, with the top five staying in the same order as 2014, with the Transit Custom heading Vauxhall’s Vivaro in the medium van market and the Transit in front of the Sprinter in heavy vans.
Toyota’s Hilux continues to defy old age – the new one arrives this summer – to lead the pick-up segment ahead of Mitsubishi’s new L200, while the Ford Ranger outsold Isuzu’s D-max in 2015 to grab third in the market, with just over 600 units covering the top three.
If the SMMT’s panel of industry experts has predicted correctly, this year will break the 2015 record, with the organisation forecasting a total of 381,000 new LCVs to be registered in 2016, which would be a 2.5% increase on last year. January wasn’t quite on that target, with the first month of the year showing a 4.3% year-on-year fall.
Looking further ahead, the SMMT expects this year to be a peak in LCV registrations, with 2017 dropping by 2.0% to around 373,000 units. Still, it’s a bit of an improvement on the mid-recession low of 186,386 though, and a sign that economic confidence is still present in the light commercial vehicle sector.

Registrations by sector
Sector 2015 2014 % change YoY
Sub-2.0t vans 43,018 39,515 8.8
2.0–2.5t vans 55,163 56,257 -1.9
2.5t–3.5t vans 222,342 183,308 21.3
Pick-ups 40,588 33,823 20
4×4 vans 10,719 8763 22.3
Total LCVs under 3.5t 371,830 321,686 15.6
Source: SMMT