The British Vehicle Leasing and Rental Association (BVRLA) has reported a further 2% reduction in its Commercial Contract (BCH) rental car fleet in 2021, with signs that operators are extending contracts to keep employees mobile while deliveries of new vehicles are delayed.
Vehicle supply, mainly due to the continued global shortage of semiconductor chips, has become the primary concern for the organization’s more than 1,000 members, who operate a total of four million vehicles in the UK.
Despite this disruption, their fleet of leased cars and vans reached 1,876,426 at the end of 2021, returning to pre-pandemic volumes after a 5.1% year-over-year increase.
The recovery was slower for company-leased cars. Members’ combined BCH vehicle fleet fell another 2% in 2021 to 759,527, down 100,000 from the end of 2019 and 180,000 from the first quarter of 2017.
Average contract mileage also rose 12% to 55,075, with the BVRLA noting that operators are extending vehicle lifecycles to counter longer delivery times.
Renewed incentives for very low-emission company cars (50 g/km CO2 or less) in 2020 are also having an effect.
In Q4 2021, 78% of wage sacrifice orders and 42% of BCH new orders were battery electric, while diesel was the least popular option for company car drivers with a share of 8%.
In turn, average CO2 emissions for the entire BVRLA BCH car fleet fell to 92.9g/km, compared to 123.8g/km for the Personal Contract Hire (PCH) fleet.
By comparison, the Personal Contract Hire (PCH) fleet grew by nearly 50,000 in 2021 (+17.3%) to 326,041.
Demand for vans was even stronger, with the leased fleet growing by 80,000 (up 18.8%) to a record 498,280 – which the BVRLA attributes to the economic recovery and expanding fleets home delivery.
The BVRLA data echoes SMMT registration figures for 2021, which show a 4.4% reduction in fleet and business car registrations (to 844,677), while private registrations increased by 7.4% (to 802,504).
Although the BVRLA is optimistic that the BCH auto market will recover in 2022, it warns that it could take several years to return to pre-pandemic levels.
BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “The fleet rental sector is driving demand for zero-emission vehicles, but it is running out of supply as manufacturers divert products to more lucrative sales channels.