Truck registrations up in first quarter, but still behind 2019 levels

HGV registrations were up by 9.5% in the first three months of 2021 compared to 2020, but were still significantly down on 2019 levels, according to new figures.

Statistics released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), showed that 10,064 units registered in the first quarter of the year, up on 2020, although last year’s figures were particularly weak due to the first lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic being announced in March, allied to fluctuations in the fleet renewal cycle. Registrations for 2021 were 15% down on levels for the first three months of 2019.

Artics saw the biggest increase in demand, with registrations up 25.3% to 4,528 vehicles, while the rigid market decreased by 0.8% to 5,536 units. Tractors remain the biggest segment, making up 44.3% of the market, with 26.6% more units registered than in the first quarter of 2020. Tipper registrations also increased, up 10.8%. However, registrations of most segments dropped, as the pandemic affected business operations, suppressing demand for most of the past year.

Confidence appears to be returning most in England, where registrations were up by 11.6% to 8,816 registrations in the first quarter. Registrations also improved markedly in Scotland, up 7.5% on 2020 levels. However, in Northern Ireland, registrations only increased by a fraction – 0.4% – while registrations in Wales plummeted by more than 25%. While Wales is a much smaller market than England or Scotland, the fall is significant. It could be down to a slower move from lockdown conditions affecting buying decisions, as well as more fleet renewals occurring in 2020.

Manufacturer news

In terms of manufacturers, DAF once again led the way in number of registrations and market share. While registrations were a fraction down compared to the first quarter of 2020 – 3142 compared to 3200 – they sold more than double that of any other manufacturer bar Scania. Likewise DAF’s market share declined slightly year-on-year, down to 31.8% from 34.2%.

It was a good quarter for Scania, with more than 150 units more sold in this quarter than the equivalent last year, a rise of nearly 11% – bolstered by sales of new models released last year. German manufacturer MAN had the best quarter however, with registrations up by 56.8% compared to 2020. Its market share jumped from 7.5% to 10.8% too, making it the fourth biggest seller in the UK, leapfrogging German rival Mercedes-Benz in the process. This is largely down to MAN’s new generation of trucks, which were launched just before the pandemic hit in 2020 and have been well received in the marketplace.

While Mercedes-Benz was overtaken by MAN, the manufacturer too had a promising first quarter of 2021, with sales increasing by more than 35% year-on-year.

Of the other ‘big seven’ manufacturers, Volvo registrations remained stable year-on-year and the company retained its place as third biggest seller just behind Swedish rival Scania. Meanwhile Iveco’s sales were up by 16% to 972 units. Like Scania and MAN, Iveco has also launched new models in the past 12 months that have been well received by operators. Finally, Renault Trucks sales were up by 15.2% to 494.

At the smaller end of the market, sales of Isuzu and Fuso trucks declined, by 26.4% and 5.9% respectively. This reflects the decline in registrations of rigids between 6 and 16 tonnes year-on-year.

Meanwhile, sales of Dennis Eagle trucks, which focuses on refuse collection vehicles and specialist trucks, remained stable, again reflecting the stability in demand in that market.

Welcome news

“The rise in truck registrations is welcome news but it does not yet signify full recovery, especially as it’s in comparison with a quarter when the first lockdown was introduced,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “Likewise, the nature of the fleet buying cycle for the HGV market can mean that a large fleet order can have a significant impact on any quarterly figures.”

Hawes added that fleet renewal remains the quickest way to get more of the newest, cleanest vehicles on UK roads, particularly in regard to reaching environmental goals. “A plan for a charging and refuelling network suitable for HGVs is pivotal for the transition to these new technologies,” he said.

Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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