New light commercial vehicle sales fell by 3.6% in 2017 to 362,149 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the first year the market has declined since 2012.

The drop in registrations was on the cards considering the marginal 1.0% rise to a record 375,687 units in 2016 represented a considerable slowdown compared to the 15% leap in sales between 2014 and 2015.

With the Brexit negotiations hitting business confidence through failing to provide much clarity on the future of the UK’s trading relationships within its largest market, the European Union, however, the SMMT has forecast another year-on-year sales dip of 2.6% to 353,000 units in 2018 followed by a further fall of 3.1% to 342,000 in 2019.

Despite pointing out that LCV sales have increased by more than 60% since 2010’s recession-induced trough of 223,000, SMMT boss Mike Hawes warns: “We expect the economic and political uncertainty to continue to affect the market, so the Government must rebuild business confidence and encourage operators to invest in new vehicles given fleet renewal is the fastest way to reduce overall emissions.”

A closer look at the 2017 market reveals sales of small vans weighing less than 2.0t fell sharply, by 20.3% to 29,407 units, and the crucial market for medium and large vans, weighing 2.5t to 3.5t, slipped back 3.1% to 225,837.

However, there was better news for pick-ups, up 7.8% to 51,415 units, and light vans weighing 2.0t to 2.5t, which saw a 2.3% rise to 55,047.

Unsurprisingly, Ford continues to dominate the market, growing sales by just under 2.0% year-on-year to 117,831 – nearly three times as many as second-placed VW, with 41,474 units representing a fall of 8.5% that can be partly explained by the disruptions to supply caused by the introduction of the new Crafter and facelifted Amarok.

Like last year, Ford provided the best-selling models in all the core market sectors: the Transit Connect light van, the Transit Custom medium van, the Transit large van and the Ranger pick-up.

 Leading Brands Top 5

To see the full chart, click in the ‘Related Files’ section on the right.

It was a good year for Toyota, which saw sales up by 27.2%. Other brands recording rises included Mitsubishi (20.2%), Peugeot (9.0%), Fiat (6.4%) and Mercedes-Benz (5.8%).

Not faring so well were Iveco, Vauxhall and Renault, with falls of 28.2%, 24.8% and 24.0% respectively.

Vauxhall in particular endured a bruising year as it dropped two places in the sales chart to fifth, being overtaken by Peugeot and Mercedes.

The Luton-based brand is in a state of limbo at the moment as it awaits to see what direction its new owner – PSA Peugeot-Citroen – will take it in.

An early clue is in the reveal of the Combo Life, the passenger-carrying version of Vauxhall’s light van, which will be assembled on PSA’s light van platform. It would appear likely, therefore, that Vauxhall’s other main products – the Vivaro medium van and Movano large van – which are currently based on Renault’s Trafic and Master respectively, will in future switch to PSA platforms to be built alongside the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert in the case of the Vivaro and the Relay and Boxer when it comes to the Movano.

There were two new names in the top 20 manufacturer table for 2017. MAN, with its debut van the VW Crafter-based TGE, and Dacia, which sells the 4×4 Duster Commercial, replaced Land Rover and Great Wall. Sales were modest, though, of just 68 and 62 units respectively.

The Ford Transit Custom was by far last year’s best-selling van, with 51,885 registrations, ahead of its Transit sibling on 27,062, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with 23,588.

Other notable performers were the new-generation Citroen Dispatch, which jumped seven places in the top 25 table to 18, its sibling the Peugeot Expert, which was a new entry at number 20, and the Ford Transit Courier, which was another new entry at 25.

Dropping out of the top 25 were the Vauxhall Movano and VW Caddy Maxi.