Volumes fall 3.5 per cent year-on-year
New car sales in May fell 3.5 per cent year-on-year as industry predictions for a difficult year of trading hold firm.
Total registrations reached 179,272 during the month, meaning the year-to-date is now 0.6 per cent behind 2007 at almost 1.04 million sales.
According to the latest SMMT figures, private buyers shied away from making any big ticket purchases.
Volumes in the private sector fell 9.5 per cent year-on-year to 73,422 units but business sales fared even worse, slumping by 15.4 per cent.
Those declines were offset by robust sales in the fleet sector, which managed a 3.1 per cent increase to 96,588 units, helping it to a 53.9 per cent share of the monthly market.
The fleet sector is the only market to have grown over the first five months of the year.
The downturn in consumer spending was also evident in the type of new cars that were sold.
Downsizing, due to financial restraints and the rising cost of fuel, saw sales in the mini segment increase 120 per cent in May and rise 27.4 per cent over the year-to-date.
The newly-launched Hyundai i10 was the bestseller in the segment but the Ford Focus was the best selling model overall.
“The slow-down in the overall new car market in May comes as no surprise and reflects concerns across the economy,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“The figures are in line with SMMT forecasts for 2008, and we expect a tough year ahead.
“Vehicle manufacturers and dealers will have to work hard to attract consumers, who are facing increasing household and motoring expenses.”