Online shopping 'boosts van sales'
The growth of online shopping has helped drive van sales in the UK to a record high, manufacturers have said.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said a home delivery boom had resulted in almost 100,000 vans being registered in the first three months of 2015 - 22.3% up on that period in 2014.
It said 108,456 commercial vehicles were registered in the quarter.
That is the highest number of vans and lorries sold since the trade body began compiling figures in 1987.
Online sales in the UK hit £103bn last year, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, creating a booming market for home delivery of orders.
The figure is expected to rise by 12% in 2015 to about £1 in every £4 spent by Britons.
An SMMT spokesperson said: "Van registrations have risen consistently over the past two years, mainly as a result of steadily increasing business confidence and a range of attractive finance deals. The move towards online shopping and home deliveries is an important contributor to this growth - particularly that of large vans."
Ford accounted for more than a fifth of van sales in the quarter, with the mid-sized Transit Custom the most popular on 12,627 sales.
The Vauxhall Vivaro was in second place on 7,449 sales, with the Volkswagen Transporter third on 5,765 units.
Ford also took sixth place with the long-wheelbase Transit model, which sold 5,276 units, and the small Transit Connect variant in eighth place with 4,096 sales.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "Commercial vehicles are crucial to the functioning of Britain's economy and these latest figures paint a very encouraging picture. As business confidence grows, demand for the latest vans and trucks is now back to pre-recession levels - outpacing the rest of Europe."
Commercial vehicle sales mirror the buoyant new car market. Almost 493,000 cars were registered in March - up 6% up on the same month in 2014 and the best monthly figure since August 1998, the SMMT said.
Its figures suggest that there are about 4.4m vans and trucks on British roads, delivering 81% of all goods and shifting almost 3,000 tonnes of goods every minute.
The latest models from manufacturers including Fiat, Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot will be on display in Birmingham this week as the NEC hosts the Commercial Vehicle Show.