Fleet demand drives May new car sales

Published:  04 June, 2021

New car sales in May were up 674.1% on the same month in 2020, but were 14.7% down on May 2019’s total and 13.2% down on the 10-year average, the latest figures from the SMMT show.

New car sales results for May, released today (Friday 4 June) saw 156,737 cars sold during the month, vastly more than the 20,247 sold in May 2020 during the depths of the first lockdown.

In what was an increasingly positive economic environment – reflected by OECD forecasting a 7.2% increase in UK GDP during 2021 – fleet registrations increased at double the rate of private sales, with large fleets making up 50.7% of all new vehicles sold.

On the EV and hybrid front, battery electric vehicle (BEV) market share fell to 8.4%, from 12% in May 2020. Meanwhile, plug-in vehicles now comprise 13.8% of new car registrations, up from 7.2% a year earlier, with the greatest increase seen with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles.

Commenting on the figures, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “With dealerships back open and a brighter, sunnier, economic outlook, May’s registrations are as good as could reasonably be expected. Increased business confidence is driving the recovery, something that needs to be maintained and translated in private consumer demand as the economy emerges from pandemic support measures. Demand for electrified vehicles is helping encourage people into showrooms, but for these technologies to surpass their fossil-fuelled equivalents, a long term strategy for market transition and infrastructure investment is required.”

NFDA Director Sue Robinson added: Sue Robinson added: “In May, vehicle sales continued to benefit from the pent-up demand accumulated when showrooms were closed; footfall levels and volumes of enquiries alike are now beginning to increase following the reopening of dealerships.The outlook for the industry remains positive, consumer confidence is rising and with the economy performing better than expected, dealers are optimistic about the months ahead although tightness in supply may affect registrations of new cars over the summer”.

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