The group, which saw a dip in sales in 2003, restructured its fleet team, put specialist fleet sales people in dealerships and introduced a range of financial packages for fleets in 2004.
Speaking at the company’s annual State of the Nation briefing, Chris Thorneycroft-Smith, director of UK market activities, said: ‘In 1994, the 2.8 to 6.5 tonne van market totalled some 58,000 units. Last year, it hit 141,000. That’s growth of 143% in just a decade. And it’s getting stronger. A year ago, we were reporting on a market that had grown by 8.4% to 115,763 units.
‘Now year-on-year growth of 21.9% has given another peak of 114,113. ‘Figures show how we have improved on last year by bringing the fleet team together and having specialist fleet sales people in dealerships.
‘This year, we want to continue our focus on fleet again, looking at improving servicing and reducing downtime.’
Despite recording one of the largest 3.5 tonne sales increases, Thorneycroft believes there will be some levelling off in the market.
The reason for this, he said, was that significant amounts of retail business were moving to smaller 2.8 to 3.4-tonne vans.
He added: ‘But 3.5 tonnes is a sector dominated by the big fleets and contract hire – 70% of the volume goes to fleets with 25 or more vans.’
Changes in funding methods have also helped bolster the market, according to Thorneycroft-Smith.
He said: ‘Because fleets are now the dominant force, the number of actual purchasers has reduced as end users move their operations off balance sheet.
‘In making that move, they’ve been faced with an array of choices on vehicle funding and contract hire has established itself as the most straightforward, hassle-free alternative.
‘It has opened the market to people and businesses who might never have considered a new van previously.’