Sales of new light commercial vehicles rose 5.0% year-on-year to 16,394 in August, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Over the first eight months of the year, however, sales remained down 2.2% at 220,399 compared to the same period in 2017.

The pick-up sector continued to perform strongly in August – up 21.4% year-on-year to 2,025, which helped it to stay 3.5% ahead during the year-to-date with 32,686 registrations.

The largest market sector, covering medium and large vans weighing from 2.5 to 3.5-tonnes grew 14.6% to 11,018 last month but was down 2.7% to 135,728 during the year to 31 August.

Sales of small vans weighing less than 2.0-tonnes fell 9.3% to 1,159 in August, contributing to an 8.8% decline in the year-to-date to 17,416 while the 2.0 to 2.5-tonne light van segment plummeted 29.7% in August to 2,143, although the year-to-date shortfall was a more modest 3.9% to 33,489 units.

August is traditionally one of the year’s lowest volume sales months – coming ahead of the busy plate-change month of September.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes commented: “August is typically one of the quietest months for LCV registrations, so the increase in demand for these high-tech, ultra-low and zero-emission vehicles is especially welcome news.

“While year-to-date figures show the market remains at a reasonably high level, weak business confidence and uncertainty means fluctuations in demand will likely continue throughout the year.”

The medium-sized Ford Transit Custom remained the UK’s top-selling van in August but its big brother the Transit was pushed into third place during the month by the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Over the first eight months of the year the top three was made up of the Custom, the Transit and the Volkswagen Transporter.

Market leader Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes and Nissan all saw sales increase year-on-year in August but Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Renault were down compared to the same month in 2017.