New car registrations rose 7.9% in May to 162,288 units, with registrations to fleet and business accounting for 92,616 units or 57% of the overall market.
That was 3,148 units more than the 89,468 units registered to fleets in May 2011 – a 3.5% increase.
Overall, registrations over the first five months of 2012 have improved by 2.6% to 868,166 units, which was a 21,653 unit increase over last year, with this growth firmly established in the past three months.
Fleets accounted for 54% (471,802 units), which was more than 10,000 units less than last year.
The 12-month running rate stood at 1.963 million units in May, almost unchanged from a year ago but some 20,000 units above the 2011 full year figure of 1,941,343 units.
“May’s 7.9% increase in new car registrations is good news for the motor industry and the UK economy, particularly the steady growth in demand from private buyers,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.
“There is no doubt that vehicle manufacturers and their dealer networks are working hard to deliver value for money to motorists and 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.”
Looking at a 3.5% jump in the fleet and business market in May, David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at Deloitte, said: “The increase in fleet sales is a welcome reversal of the downward trend.
“However, with growing nervousness in the eurozone, businesses will continue to be cautious when reviewing their fleet expenditure.”
Recent growth in the market has been supported by improved private volumes, which have recovered to post an 8.5% rise over the first five months of 2012, with a 14.3% increase in May.
Meanwhile, the May market was more than 6% and 9,000 units above SMMT’s forecast for the month.
As new models came to market, the alternatively-fuelled sector grew 31.8%. Petrol and diesel cars also recorded growth in the month and the year-to-date.
New models helped the Mini segment rise 85.8% in May. The Dual Purpose, Lower Medium, Supermini and Specialist Sports segments also recorded improved volumes in the month.
The Vauxhall Corsa was the best-selling model in May, with Ford’s Fiesta top over the first five months of 2012.