UK new car sales accelerated in May, say manufacturers

SMMT Chief executive Paul Everitt says fuel efficient vehicles are driving sales

UK new car sales jumped to 162,288 last month, a 7.9% rise compared with May 2011, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It was the largest percentage increase in registrations for 23 months, thanks largely to a 14.3% increase in private sales, says the SMMT.

The sharp rise in May brings the total for 2012 up to 868,166 - a 2.6% rise over the same period last year.

The fleet market was up 4.8%, ending a three-month decline.

"May's 7.9% increase in new car registrations is good news for the motor industry and the UK economy," said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.

"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 best-selling car in May was the Vauxhall Corsa, but the Ford Fiesta remains the UK's most popular new car in 2012, with 50,507 sold so far.

The UK automotive industry has an annual turnover of about £49bn, accounting for more than 10% of total exports, and employs 700,000 people.

Going green

There was also significant growth sales of lower emissions vehicles - hybrid petrol-electric, electric-only, and range-extended cars - which rose 31.8% in May, albeit from a low base.

Sales in this sector increased to 12,145 for 2012, compared with 11,347 for the same period last year, with the bulk of these being hybrid petrol-electric cars.

But new models, such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric-powered cars, have also helped boost the market.

And Vauxhall and Chevrolet have released "range-extended" electric-powered cars that use petrol generators to increase the range of their electric batteries.

"The green sector is growing fast," Jonathan Visscher, SMMT spokesman told the BBC.

"Every car manufacturer is going to have a hybrid model on its lists by the end of this year, even Ferrari."

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