Overall, 237,343 light commercial vehicles were registered last year, compared to 211,024 in 1997. Alan Pulham, Retail Motor Industry Franchise Dealer director, said the figures indicated that industry feels confident about future levels of business.
'If companies in the construction and distributive trades are ordering commercial vehicles, then their clients must be feeling that the economy is healthy and that the prospects for future business is good,' he said. 'In the past, sales of commercial vehicles have proved to be an excellent barometer for the health of the economy. I hope these figures will go some way to silencing the doom and gloom merchants who have been predicting a recession for 1999.'
Ford dominated the LCV sector with the Transit, which enjoyed its best year since 1990, selling 56,055 vans, and outselling the combined totals of its nearest five rivals, as part of total Ford LCV registrations of 91,179 units (1997: 86,530). Robin August, Ford's director of commercial vehicles, said: 'This year's sales for Transit and our light commercial range show that our traditional strengths combined with constant innovations continue to offer the best overall package in the market.'
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter continued to increase its sales significantly, up to 18,385 (15,871), as did Renault with the new Master 4,646 (3,145), while LDV said the strength of the pound had hurt its sales, which slipped year-on-year to 16,348 (17,907), as competition in the panel van sector intensified.