New-car sales are continuing to buck the weak economic outlook, following May registrations climbing by 7.9 per cent compared to the same time last year, reaching a total of 162,288 units.
The rise in sales represents the strongest rate of growth since June 2010 and means that car registrations for the first five months of 2012 are up 2.6 per cent, compared to the first five months of 2011.
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SMMT's chief executive, Paul Everitt, commented on the May increase:
"May's 7.9 per cent increase in new car registrations is good news for the motor industry and the UK economy. The consistent climb in new car registrations during the first five months of the year suggests that confidence is returning, despite financial uncertainty in the Eurozone."
The new 12 plates, which were introduced in March, may still be a contributing factor to the rise in new car registrations for May.
The city car segment rose a massive 85.8 per cent in May, which was helped by recent releases including the Volkswagen Up. The Fiat 500 city car also sold well and made it into the top ten sellers list with 2,823 units sold.
The top ten sellers list for May was dominated by both the supermini and hatchback segment as the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Focus all made it into the top ten.
The Vauxhall Corsa was the overall top seller in May, with 8,413 units sold, beating the second-placed Ford Fiesta. However, the Ford Fiesta is still ahead, with year-to-date sales reaching 50,507 units.
Larger models like the Nissan Qashqai crossover and the Vauxhall Insignia large family car also made the top ten sellers list, selling 3,179 and 2,949 units respectively.
Diesel models once again outsold petrol, with sales at 85,081 units and 75,099 units respectively.
The increase in diesel sales reflects a year-to-date growth in diesel sales of 4.8 per cent compared to last year.
New registrations for Alternative Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs) rose a massive 31.8 per cent compared to May last year, although sales are still at a relatively lowly 2,108. Year-to-date figures show an increase of seven per cent for AFVs.
Private, Fleet and Business
Both Private and Fleet sales saw an increase in sales; Business sales fell 13.5 per cent.
Private sales increased 14.3 per cent compared to May last year and 8.5 per cent year-to-date. Fleet sales have picked up from a 3.4 per cent in April and increased 4.8 per cent compared to May last year with year-to-date figures falling by just 106 units.
As well as Business sales for May falling 13.5 per cent, its year-to-date figures also fell, by 20.2 per cent.
Manufacturers - winners and losers for May
Land Rover is still reaping the benefits of its highly successful Range Rover Evoque crossover, as May sales figures increased 61 per cent compared to last year.
Land Rover's year-to-date figures also increased, from 17,377 units to 22,303 units, which is a 28 per cent increase.
As ever, Ford comes out on top in terms of sales with 23,255 units sold and 126,724 units sold year-to-date. The Ford Fiesta took a large chunk of these sales, with 8,337 units sold.
Coinciding with the introduction of the new Ampera, Vauxhall's new Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV), Vauxhall's sales have increased eight per cent compared to May last year.
Its overall sales for May were slightly behind Ford at 20,275 units. Vauxhall took 13 per cent of the new car market in May.
Alfa sales fell 44 per cent compared to May last year and its year-to-date figures also fell 36 per cent.
Top ten sellers table for May
1.Vauxhall Corsa - 8,413
2.Ford Fiesta - 8,337
3.Ford Focus - 6,983
4.Volkswagen Golf - 5,867
5.Vauxhall Astra - 5,433
6.BMW 3 Series - 3,520
7.Volkswagen Polo - 3,228
8.Nissan Qashqai - 3,179
9.Vauxhall Insignia - 2,949
10.Fiat 500 - 2,823