A total of 303,755 new registrations were recorded for vans weighing up to 3.5-tonnes, an increase of 14% when compared to the previous year. The previous record volume was set in 1989 with 298,836 units.
Commenting on CV sales as a whole, SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: '2003 was a remarkable year for business investment in new vehicles as market growth showed an unexpected strength and durability.
'A wide range of businesses showed significant confidence in the future of their markets and a need for modern, comfortable and adaptable CVs. December's figures continued the robust growth trend seen over 11 of the past 12 months.
'With gross domestic product growth accelerating again and business confidence firm in the UK, the new CV market is well placed to hold 2003's strong registration volumes into 2004. Slowing growth in consumer spending will clearly be challenging, but the expected growth in business investment and healthy activity levels in construction and other service sectors bodes well for the immediate future.'
Vauxhall's commercial vehicle sales division is celebrating its own record high. Sales at 49,982 units were up by 54.3% on 2002, which itself was a 31.1% rise on 2001.
'We are proud of these figures,' said national van sales manager Ian Hucker. 'What they show is simply that if you are able to offer a full range of vans with full aftersales back-up you are a winner.
'That is precisely what Vauxhall set out to do when we to a large extent relaunched the Vauxhall vans brand just two years ago.'