The new van market didn’t escape the disruption, with 20% fewer light commercial vehicles registered compared to 2019. Lack of buyer confidence, fleets extending change cycles and factories being closed meant that both demand and supply were restricted.
Still, over 292,000 vehicles were registered – so in true ‘Top of the Pops’ style, let’s take a look at 2020’s best-selling light commercial vehicles (LCVs).
In tenth position and unchanged from last year is the Vauxhall Combo. Fighting its corner against its almost identical siblings from Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota, the Combo is achieving much greater success than its predecessor which was a rebadged Fiat Doblo – not the world’s best-looking van.
Boasting a payload of almost 1000kg, it’s available in two body lengths and also in handy crewcab, five-seat guise. Watch out for the recently announced fully electric version.
Only slightly different to the Combo, the Partner has dropped one place from its 2019 position. The PSA group (now renamed Stellantis after its merger with Fiat) has a three-pronged attack on the small van market with the Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands and the demand for this excellent light van remains unabated.
The Ford Transit Connect dropped just one position in 2020. Relatively speaking, it’s starting to get slightly long in the tooth having been launched in 2013, almost eight years ago.
Expect to hear about its replacement over the course of this year, and don’t be surprised if it bears more than a passing resemblance to the latest incarnation of the Volkswagen Caddy.
Leading its almost identical siblings from Peugeot and Vauxhall, the Citroen Berlingo jumped two places in 2020. For some reason, the Berlingo regularly has the edge over the Peugeot in particular, perhaps due to dealer strength and fleet activity.
Here’s an interesting fact though – add together the sales of the Berlingo, Partner and Combo and the 34,451 registrations would put it in second place in the top ten.
The pick-up sector had a particularly difficult time in 2020 with a drop in sales of 32.7% compared to the overall 20% fall. Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi have all withdrawn either entirely, or just from the UK market.
The Ford Ranger in sixth place (unchanged from 2019) is the only truck to feature in the top 10. Regularly facelifted, it appeals equally to the lifestyle user and those who need a workhorse.
The launch of the Ford Ranger Raptor has no doubt enhanced the image and the Ranger brand, but its price and lack of payload (with tax implications) mean sales will be small in number.
What do the Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch and Nissan NV300 have in common? Besides being almost identical, they also don’t appear in the 2020 top 10 – unlike the platform sharing Vauxhall Vivaro, which achieved a very creditable fifth place, unchanged from 2019.
With a comfortable cab environment, an excellent payload and a choice of efficient power units, it has a lot to offer. The new, all electric Vivaro-e is one to watch, with an outstanding range of up to 205 miles between charges.
The legendary Volkswagen Transporter retains its 2019 position as the fourth best-selling LCV. The latest T6.1 version hit the road in 2020 with some subtle changes, most apparent externally at the front.
Internally, the dash has been refreshed and the van benefits from some tech upgrades, an area where manufacturers are on the constant quest to keep up with or overtake the competition.
Watch out for the electric Transporter and, in the future, a medium van developed with Ford.
In 2020, the ubiquitous ‘big’ Ford Transit lost out in its constant battle with Mercedes-Benz for second place, achieving third with sales of 21,724 units.
A refresh in 2019 included improved payload, a revamped front end, updated engines offering class leading torque output and a new dashboard.
Ford are constantly introducing additional technology aimed at safety and driver assistance in particular, and the latest Transit more than deserves its place near the top of the sales charts.
Mercedes-Benz will be overjoyed that the Sprinter is in position number two for sales in a year where supply could have been such an issue. There have been suggestions that some registrations were mandated due to emissions legislation and it isn’t known how many (if any) unsold vehicles remain in dealer stock.
Although not class leading in payload, the German manufacturer offers a huge combination of body lengths and heights together with some advanced driver assistance features.
Retaining its number one spot with 43,551 registrations (a massive 20,000 more than second placed Sprinter) is the Ford Transit Custom.
Ford seemed to get this van right from day one and haven’t looked back since. It’s the van of choice for thousands of small businesses and fleets alike, its popularity meaning that used van prices remain outstanding.
The manufacturer has been slow to develop fully electric vans, however, and is in danger of losing ground rapidly to competitors, especially in the medium van segment.
I started my career selling vans in the mid-eighties, progressing through dealer groups to management level. In 2010 I joined vehicle valuation company CAP, being made responsible for forecasting future used values for all makes and models of vans and trucks, this data being used by leasing companies and manufacturers to assess future risk. This role entailed very early exposure to new models including extensive testing across Europe.
In 2016 I started up my own consultancy business dedicated to the LCV industry. In addition, my freelance written work has been used by a number of clients and I am a regular contributor to WhatVan? magazine. I’m also a judge for their annual ‘Van of the Year’ awards.
To relax, I enjoy travel, walking near my Yorkshire home and spend much of my time being bullied by my pet cat, Leo.