New car sales rise again in May

Best first cars for new drivers - Ford Fiesta
5 Jun, 2018 10:25am Hugo Griffiths

Official figures show second consecutive month of growth for UK car sales, with "encouraging" 3.4 per cent market increase

New car sales increased again May, with a 3.4 per cent rise in sales following a 10.4 per cent market growth spurt in April.

Prior to that point, the market had been in decline for 12 months, while May 2017 was marked by an 8.5 per cent drop in sales as a then-new road tax system kept punters out of dealerships.

Best selling cars 2018

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show some 192,649 new cars found homes in May this year, up from 186,265 in the same month in 2017. The rise was driven by demand from private buyers, who purchased 10.1 per cent more cars. That was enough to offset business and fleet sales, which fell by 9.6 and 0.7 per cent respectively.

The AFV (alternatively-fuelled vehicles) market saw its groundswell continue, with a 36.1 per cent increase in sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). PHEVs alone almost doubled in popularity, with 72.7 per cent more sold in May 2018 compared to May 2017. Pure electric vehicles (EVs) increased by 18.7 per cent, while conventional hybrids such as the increased in popularity by 22.6 per cent.

AFVs now account for a record 5.8 per cent of the market, while sales of petrol cars were up 23.5 per cent in May. Demand for diesel dropped by 23.6 per cent, down for the 14th consecutive month.

Warm weather is thought the be behind a boom in sales of convertibles, with 11.7 per cent more drop tops being bought last month compared to May 2017. Specialist sports cars rose by 12.7 per cent, while 6 per cent more superminis were bought in May.

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Industry experts have cautiously welcomed the rise; the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, called May’s figures “encouraging”, adding they suggest “the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate.” Hawes pointed out, however, that the increase comes off the back of “large declines” in 2017.

The Ford Fiesta retained Britain’s top-spot as the most popular new car, with 6,896 examples of Ford’s supermini finding homes last month. The Ford Focus came second, with 6,573 examples being purchased in May, while the Volkswagen Golf was third with 6,372 units sold.

Check out the top ten cars sold in the UK in 2018