Global sales of light commercial vehicle (LCV) are expected to reach 9.49 million units in 2020, with pickups contributing to 4.62 million units. The share of North America (NA) in the overall LCV market stood at 35%, while China held a 25% share, in 2019. Impending disruptions due to Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) are expected to impact sales across all regions, with Europe taking the biggest hit due to the severity of the virus. The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi (RNM) group retained its global leadership in the light-duty (LD) trucks and vans segment, while Ford continued to lead the pickups segment globally in 2019. Electric LCVs (eLCVs) will continue to gain importance going forward with a slew of launches expected until 2023, with quite a few of them, especially in medium-sized vans, expected in 2020. Renault-Nissan, Volkswagen, Daimler, Ford, and Fiat have plans to come out with new eLCV models this year.

COVID-19 has brought the global economy to its knees with business activities severely impacted everywhere. This has only exacerbated an already weak outlook for LCV sales in 2020, which is now expected to decline by 19% across major regions combined. Governments of all major economies have come up with a rescue plan in form of providing substantial fiscal stimulus, to the tune of 5%-10% of GDP on average, to their respective countries. However, most regions are expected to make any decent recovery only by late Q3/Q4 2020, with emerging nations on average recovering quicker than their counterparts in NA and Europe. With the lockdown in force in most regions and people staying indoors and maintaining social distancing, last-mile delivery of essentials is expected to rise. This will result in greater utilization and reallocation of LCVs in the last-mile application to deliver essentials. The current situation could open up the potential for a range of innovations and disruptions leading to increasing adoption of autonomous features on vehicles, such as the use of drones for deliveries in the medium to long terms.

With the increase in supply chain complexity and service requirements, last-mile delivery is evolving dynamically to meet customer demands. Electric and autonomous LCVs will play a crucial role in this regard. A large portion of the dynamic shuttles which are a part of on-demand passenger transportation will be based on LCV platforms. Apart from the impact of eCommerce and last-mile applications, connectivity is expected to slowly grow in significance. Greater integration of various telematics features in the developed markets such as NA and Europe as well as increasing penetration in China, India and Latin America (LATAM) can potentially bring connected features in LCVs to the forefront in 2020.

LCV OEMs will leverage their technological knowhow in the passenger vehicle segment in terms of powertrain, and also their lightweighting strategies. Most of them such as Renault-Nissan, Volkswagen, and Daimler are working on building common platforms for some LCVs and passenger vehicles to reduce lead times and save on development costs. The slowdown due to the pandemic should also expedite some of the M&A activity in the automotive industry as companies look for collaboration to cut costs and mitigate risks. More joint work from OEMs and suppliers in the areas of electrification, connectivity, and developing autonomous capabilities should make these features affordable and increase their adoption going forward.