Private car registrations in May grew for the 27th consecutive month, breaking a record set in the 1980s for continuous growth in car sales, according to statistics released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
May’s figures showed that year on year the number of registrations grew by 7.7% to just over 194,000 vehicles, demonstrating that the car market was finally recovering to levels not seen since before the financial crisis.
The May figures helped year-to-date registrations exceed 1m and meant the car market grew 11.6% in the first five months of the year, exceeding early estimates.
At current rates the market will exceed the total registration figure for 2007 (2,404,007), the last strong year in sales before the full effects of the market downturn.
The continuing levels of growth have been a surprise to many in the industry, with the SMMT themselves predicting a levelling of demand in 2014 with initial estimates of 12 month growth stabilising at 1%. Talking to Motor Finance Andy Gruber, director of Alphera, also believed that early demand would tail off as the market hit a peak demand as the year progressed.
With seven months of the year remaining and the potential of another number plate spike in September, the pace of growth looks set to be carried forwards into the second half of the year however.
Commenting on the May figures Chris Sutton, managing director of Black Horse said: "If the positive momentum in new car sales continues, it looks like we are set for a strong Q2 in the motor industry as this month’s figures show consumer demand for new cars remains unabated, albeit we may not see the same pace of growth that we have witnessed in recent months.
"Car manufacturers are clearly offering the right balance of quality cars and attractive finance deals that make owning a new car both affordable and appealing. Lastly, as the UK economy continues to make positive noises with consumers feeling more empowered to buy big ticket items such as cars we would anticipate car manufacturers will respond by continuing to work hard to launch cars with cutting edge technology."
The number of vehicles registered to fleets in May grew by 6.5% year-on-year to 90,711 vehicles but remained down on market share compared to May last year, with 49.3% of vehicles being fleet as opposed to 49.9% last year.
Business registrations took up the majority of that slack taking an extra 0.6% out of both private and fleet market share to 3.9% of the market. Private sales by comparison only grew share by 0.1%.
Economy still appeared to drive the market with diesel and alternatively fuelled vehicles registrations growing at a stronger rate than the petrol segment.
Diesel vehicles sales grew by 8.7% in May to 99,580 vehicles and remained the most popular fuel type, with just under 8,000 more vehicles registered than petrol.
Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFV) such as Hybrids and full electric vehicles grew the strongest of any segment, up 72.3% in May, possibly as the combination of government incentive schemes, fleet uptake and an increased choice of vehicles combined. Market share, however, remained small with only 1.8% of the market or just 3,444 registered in May. For the year to date the AFV market was up 56% with a total of 19,177 vehicles registered.
The Ford Fiesta remained the UK’s bestselling vehicle, with May registrations of over 9,000. The Ford Focus, long the second bestselling vehicle slipped to fourth, with the Volkswagen Golf taking second place with over 7,000 registrations in May. The Vauxhall Corsa held third spot
A new entrant to the top ten selling vehicles was the Vauxhall Mokka, which displaced the BMW 3 Series.