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May’s modest sales growth will be a relief to car industry

New car registration result for May 2018 have been published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) this morning, showing modest growth of just over 3% on the same month last year.

It’s the second month of modest growth over 2017 figures, although it needs to be borne in mind that the second quarter of 2017 was very poor as a result of changes to road tax and the general election. The numbers are still lower than results from May 2014 – 2016 but, nevertheless, car companies and dealerships will be heartened to see a second month of stability rather than substantial decline.

It was a particularly positive month for private new car registrations, up 10% on the same month last year. This will be heartening for car dealers as that means a significant increase in the number of customers visiting their showrooms, whereas fleet and business sales often never touch showrooms at all. Fleet sales were fractionally down on last May’s numbers, and business numbers were down (although business registrations only make up about 3% of total numbers).

May 2018 new car registrations


Market share for diesel cars was up fractionally on last month, which may be an indication that demand and supply are starting to settle at around 30% of total market share. Diesel sales were still down more than 23% on last year, but this is the first result in a long time where diesel’s market share hadn’t declined further than the previous month.

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (essentially electric and hybrid cars) were up slightly to just under 6% of the total market share, which is the best it has been all year – although more rapid growth is still needed to help the industry start moving towards the government’s target of 100% by 2040.

It was a good month for superminis, SUVs and sports cars, which all saw strong growth over the same month last year. In what was the hottest May on record, convertibles also saw strong growth on last year’s results.

Of the mainstream manufacturers, it was a poor month for Nissan (down 18%), Mercedes-Benz (down 9%) and Fiat (down 35%). Meanwhile, things were happier at Volkswagen (up 15%), Land Rover (up 17%), SEAT (up 46%) and Renault (up 15%).

May 2018 top ten car registrations

As usual, the Ford Fiesta sat atop the sales charts in May, but not by much. Right behind was its larger sibling, the Ford Focus – now in full run-out mode ahead of the all-new model arriving soon. The Audi A3 snuck back into 10th place as the Ford Kuga fell back out again.

Commercial vehicle registration data will also be released today, and we will be covering that over on our sister site, , this afternoon.

Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Executivecondominium, and . Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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