Combined with retail sales, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that full-year sales figures for the new car market were now expected to reach 2.6 million units by the end of the year – making 2004 the fourth consecutive record year for new car sales.
Sales to fleet operators and to businesses, which operate less than 25 vehicles, have grown for the month of May and for the year to date.
Fleet registrations were up 3.9% on the month and 3.3% over the year. Business sales to sub-25 vehicle fleets increased by 9.1% in May and 13% for the year-to-date.
Combined, they represent 51.2% of the total market.
Produced by the SMMT, the figures show that diesel demand has increased for the 44th month in a row in the combined fleet and retail market. Volumes were up by 16.5% in May and 21.2% over the year-to-date.
Diesels now accounts for 30.9% of the combined market, up from 26.2% this time last year.
SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'We forecast that 2.6 million new cars will leave showrooms by the end of this year and you can be sure that a significant proportion of buying choices will have been made during this year's Motor Show Live.'
Half of manufacturers in the top 10 fleet sales chart have increased their sales to fleets this year.
Ford beat Vauxhall's sales during the month of May, but the Luton-based manufacturer still holds the top spot for the year to date.
Vauxhall sold 98,003 vehicles during the first five months of the year, as opposed to Ford's figure of 96,654 units, an increase of more than 4%.
In terms of models, the Ford Focus continues its reign at the top of the fleet sales chart, shifting 45,822 units so far this year, an increase of more than 18%.
Vauxhall's Astra suffered the biggest fall, but this is explained by the run-out of the previous model.
Although the Volkswagen Golf showed a fall of almost 16% for the year to date, down from 13,109 units to 11,020 units, fleet executives revealed at last month's motor show that orders for the new Golf were at a record level (Fleet NewsNet, June 3).