Demand for new LCVs in the UK rose by 2.4% year-on-year during May, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The overall increase, to a total of 27,639 registrations, was matched closely by demand for vans weighing between 2.5 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes – by far the largest section of the market – which rose by 2% to 17,349.

There was a big increase in registrations for vans weighing between 2.0 tonnes and 2.5 tonnes, which were up by 21.5% to 4,269, and this offset a sharp fall in registrations of vans weighing less than 2.0 tonnes, which were down by 21% to 1,978.

Demand for pick-ups saw a slight fall, with registrations down by 2.6% to 3,826.

There was a big increase recorded in the 4×4 segment of the market, up by 675%, though with 217 registrations this still only made up a tiny fraction of sales.

The market for the year-to-date, with 145,514 LCVs registered, is down by 1.4% compared with the same period in 2017, though the SMMT has pointed out this is still a 34.8% increase on five years ago.

Its chief executive Mike Hawes said: “It’s reassuring to see a bit of stability in the van market.

“Variations in buying cycles are a natural feature and, despite the year-to-date decline, it’s important to remember that demand remains at an historically high level.

“Barring any unforeseen shocks, we expect the rest of the year to follow a similar pattern, in line with forecasts.

“To drive long-term growth, however, we need the right economic conditions to give businesses the confidence to invest in their fleets.”

Regular market leader the Ford Transit Custom was again Britain’s best selling LCV during May, with 4,237 registrations, ahead of the Ford Transit with 2,686, the Volkswagen Transporter with 1,791, the Ford Transit Connect with 1,425, and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with 1,308.