• UK new car demand grows 3.4% in May, as market continues to rebalance following large declines in 2017.
  • Hybrids and plug-ins up more than a third to take record 5.8% share, while superminis, SUVs and soft tops also rise.
  • Year-to-date market down -6.8% as uncertainty continues to impact business and fleet buyers.

Tuesday 5 June, 2018 The UK new car market grew by a modest 3.4% 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% 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%, 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% and -0.7% respectively. The most popular segments were supermini (up 6.0%), small family (up 1.6%) and dual purpose (up 19.2%), while demand for specialist sports cars also rose, by 12.7%. In addition, the hottest May on record saw a surge in demand for convertibles as drop tops rose 11.7% year on year.1

Meanwhile, there was good news for the alternatively fuelled vehicle segment, as demand for hybrid and plug-in cars grew by 36.1% to 11,240 units, accounting for a record 5.8% of the market. Plug-in hybrid cars were the biggest driver of growth, up 72.7%, while hybrids rose 22.6% and zero emission battery electrics grew 18.7%. Registrations of petrol cars also increased, by 23.5%, while diesels fell for the 14th consecutive month, down -23.6%.

In the year to date, the overall market remains down, with new registrations having fallen -6.8%, as economic and political uncertainty continues to impact demand. Business and fleet confidence, in particular, continues to lag, down -16.2% and -7.1% respectively, while demand from private buyers in the first five months is -5.7% behind 2017 levels.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, 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.”

About SMMT and the UK automotive industry
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is one of the largest and most influential trade associations in the UK. It supports the interests of the UK automotive industry at home and abroad, promoting a united position to government, stakeholders and the media.

The automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for more than £77.5 billion turnover and £21.5 billion value added. With some 169,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and 814,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for 13.0% of total UK export of goods and invests £2.75 billion each year in automotive R&D. More than 30 manufacturers build in excess of 70 models of vehicle in the UK supported by 2,500 component providers and some of the world’s most skilled engineers.

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