New van sales fell back by 4.2% year-on-year to 57,368 in the plate-change month of September as waning business confidence weakened demand, according to the SMMT.

Over the first nine months of the year registrations were down 3.1% to 282,679 units compared to the same period in 2016.

During September demand for pick-ups remained stable – up 0.4% to 8,843, as did demand for vans in the 2.5 to 3.5t weight bracket that covers medium and large vans – rising 0.1% to 35,928.

Sales in the 4×4, small van and light van categories, however, dropped sharply and the NFDA (National Franchised Dealers Association) said this could indicate that tradesmen, service engineers and self-employed people, who tend to use this type of vans, might be delaying the purchase of new vehicles.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes called on the Government to stabilise the economy to build a platform for a return to growth.

“Business confidence has taken a hit recently as economic and political uncertainty continues, so fluctuations in purchasing patterns are to be expected. We must remember that the van market remains at a historically high level but growth will depend on better economic conditions and business confidence, something government must prioritise,” he said.

Market leader Ford’s sales in September were on a par with the same month last year, Peugeot, Mercedes and Citroen saw more significant volume increases but Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Renault declined.

The Ford Transit Custom remained the biggest-selling van in September ahead of its big brother the Transit and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.