Automotive Industry Digest

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Light commercial vehicles

‘Confidence dip’ for Britain’s van drivers, owners and operators

A further dip in business growth confidence, pointing towards a less optimistic outlook for the year ahead, has been recorded as part of the Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer.

An independent sample of 2,000 van drivers, owners, operators and fleet managers – including tradespeople and service engineers to delivery drivers and entrepreneurs – were asked about their business growth expectations, career goals, challenges and barriers, which has been tracked in Phases since Mercedes-Benz Vans first began recording results in April 2017.

This latest Phase (Phase Three – February 2018) shows a second consecutive fall in business growth confidence amongst the van driving/owning/operating community, representing a dip of five percentage points from the initial Business Barometer phase which suggests a small but sustained confidence dip.

However, this still means that 85% of respondents (February 2018 – Phase Three) feel confident their business will grow over the next 12 months, with confidence and optimism still the prevailing sentiment amongst this hard-working community.

Growth confidence remains highest amongst delivery drivers (90% – a slight fall from 92% in Phase Two) but drops to just 81% amongst tradespeople – a relatively sharp fall of five percentage points. Greater London continues to race away from the rest of the nation in terms of growth confidence – 89% of respondents from Greater London are confident their business will experience growth over the next 12 months compared to just 79% in Wales, 81% in the East of England and 82% in Yorkshire and the West Midlands.

This latest Phase also shows that while Britain’s van drivers, owners and operators are still more likely to think Brexit will improve the prospects of their business (28%) rather than damage it (20%), the gap between the two is closing. For example, in the last Phase (November 2017), nearly a third (32%) felt it would improve prospects and 19% felt it would damage them, demonstrating that the protracted negotiations and continued uncertainty are beginning to chip away at ‘Brexit belief’ amongst van drivers, owners and operators.

Encouragingly, over half of all respondents (55%) say their business will be increasing the number of vans they own or operate in the next 12 months – a slight decline from 58% in the previous Phase and 63% of delivery drivers believe the number of vans their organisation operates will increase in the next year (just 4% think fleet size will decrease)

Taking factors such as a growing customer base (53%), a rise in online shopping (37%), and a shift away from heavy goods vehicles (28%) into account, a continuing greater reliance on vans in the future looks more than likely. 43% of respondents believe the success of their business will depend more on vans in the future, and just 4% say their business will be less reliant on vans – almost unchanged from prior Phases.

Steve Bridge, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, said: “It is concerning that while confidence is high amongst van owners and operators, the trend is on a decline, and while uncertainty continues to circulate around ‘Brexit’ and the economy, the knock-on effect on the investment within businesses is potentially stagnant. We continue to monitor the views of the van community, but our hope is that ‘normal service’ is resumed soon, as van owners and operators are a life blood to the United Kingdom, keeping our businesses, and indeed lives, moving.”

The Mercedes-Benz Vans Business Barometer is a nationwide quarterly survey of businesses large and small, created to help us understand the economic landscape and discover what van owners and drivers need to keep their business moving.

Automotive Industry Digest

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