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UK new car demand warms up in May with modest 3.4 per cent increase

Time 3 years ago

THE UK new car market grew by a modest 3.4 per cent in May with 192,649 new units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The growth follows a substantial 8.5 per cent decline in the previous May when demand was impacted by the dual effects of VED pull forward and buyer hesitancy ahead of June 2017’s general election.

Private demand in the month grew by 10.1 per cent, with more than 83,000 consumers driving home in a new car, and offsetting ongoing declines in the business and fleet sectors, down 9.6 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.


The most popular segments were superminis (up six per cent), small family cars (up 1.6 per cent) and dual-purpose vehicles (up 19.2 per cent), while demand for specialist sports cars also rose, by 12.7 per cent. In addition, the hottest May on record saw a surge in demand for convertibles as drop tops rose 11.7 per cent year-on-year.

Meanwhile, there was good news for the alternatively fuelled vehicle segment, as demand for hybrid and plug-in cars grew by 36.1 per cent to 11,240 units, accounting for a record 5.8 per cent of the market.

Plug-in hybrid cars were the biggest driver of growth, up 72.7 per cent, while hybrids rose 22.6 per cent and zero-emission battery electrics grew 18.7 per cent. Registrations of petrol cars also increased, by 23.5 per cent, while diesels fell for the 14th consecutive month, down 23.6 per cent.

In the year to date, the overall market remains down, with new registrations having fallen 6.8 per cent, as economic and political uncertainty continues to impact demand.


Business and fleet confidence, in particular, continues to lag, down 16.2 per cent and 7.1 per cent respectively, while demand from private buyers in the first five months is 5.7 per cent behind 2017 levels.

Encouraging growth

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, pictured, said: ‘May’s growth, albeit on the back of large declines last year, is encouraging and suggests the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate.

‘To ensure long-term stability, we need to avoid any further disruption to the market, and this will require sustainable policies that give consumers and businesses the confidence to invest in the new cars that best suit their needs.

‘Fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, and this applies to hybrid and plug-in technologies as well as the latest low- emission petrol and diesels which, for many drivers, remain the right choice economically and environmentally.’

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