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LCV REGISTRATIONS 2010: The recovery starts here

Date: 01 March 2011

After the monumental sales plunge of 2009, an at least partial recovery took place in the LCV sector last year. Paul Barker sifts through the registration figures for a market still dominated by the Ford Transit

The van industry really had a bad time in 2009, as the credit crunch and resulting recession led to a 35.6% dive in new light commercial vehicle registrations.

That meant more than 100,000 units wiped off the table, with the year ending on 186,386. Thankfully, despite the continued economic uncertainty, that's now at least partially heading back in the right direction.

Last year, the new light commercial vehicle market enjoyed a 19.6% increase, taking it back over the 200,000 mark to 222,915 registrations. That's still well shy of the 2008 figure that almost reached 290,000, but any sort of progress was likely to be well received in 2010.

The rolling year-to-date figure has been in decline since the back end of 2008, but around September 2010 it finally turned a corner and is heading back in the right direction two years after the start of the slide, although nowhere near the highs of nearly 340,000 enjoyed in 2007.

As is the norm, Ford dominated the market, taking more registrations than second- and third-placed Vauxhall and Volkswagen put together with a total of 52,829.

But the Blue Oval's market share did slide back slightly from 28.3% to 26.7%. The Transit still increased its sales at around the same rate as the market picked up, but the Transit Connect was down 19.6%, the second-heaviest drop in the top 20 after the Nissan Navara, which underwent a model revamp in 2010.

In terms of performance versus 2009, Ford came out with the least positive score of the top 10 light commercial vehicle manufacturers, with 12.6% growth against the market's 19.6% average. Vauxhall recorded a 20.2% growth and Volkswagen 21.2% to enjoy modest market share gains, while further down the list a resurgent Renault hopped over Peugeot following a mammoth 77.6% rise in registrations last year. Fiat and Mitsubishi both enjoyed big gains to progress up the manufacturer's table at the expense of Toyota and Nissan, the latter dropping sales on 2009, one of only two top 15 manufacturers to do so.

After the medium and heavy van incarnations of the Ford Transit, it was again the Mercedes Sprinter taking third spot ahead of Volkswagen's Transporter, with its Caddy sibling one place behind. The big climber was Renault's Kangoo, jumping 19 places into the top dozen in the table. Further down, Peugeot's baby Bipper was another big climber, enjoying a 50% increase in sales to move well clear of its Citroen Nemo sister vehicle.

The 2011 market is low on new arrivals, so most changes to the rankings will be as a result of improved or reduced sales of existing vehicles.?There will be Euro5 versions of many vehicles, but the only genuine new arrivals are VW's Amarok pick-up and, late next year, Nissan's NV400 large panel van.

In 2010, the light commercial vehicle market increased its year-on-year sales in 11 of the 12 months, boosted by what the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders called "better than expected business confidence and improved output from the construction sector". SMMT boss Paul Everitt predicts the upturn will continue. "While we still have a long way to go to get volumes back to pre-recession levels, we expect more growth in 2011 and 2012," he said.

Let's hope that he is correct.