European car sales rev up in May as Germany and Spain post solid growth while the UK market dips 8.5 per cent

Rebecca Smith
The five big markets performed well in May - except the UK
The five big markets performed well in May – except the UK (Source: Getty)

New passenger car registrations across the EU increased by 7.6 per cent to 1.4m for May, nearing pre-economic crisis levels in May 2007.

But Britain was a drag on the figures, reporting a drop of 8.5 per cent last month, while the rest of the five big markets performed well.

Germany and Spain recorded the highest gains of 12.9 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively, followed by France and Italy at 8.9 per cent and 8.2 per cent, according to the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA).

A perkier economic outlook, as well as political stability in France, has helped shore up the sector after industry-wide registrations fell 6.8 per cent in April.

Read more: EU car sales stall in April as UK purchases fall by a fifth

The fall for April was partly due to fewer trading days in April, but was also dragged down by a double-digit sales decline in Britain.

Last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said UK car registrations dropped in May as buyers held back ahead of the June General Election.

Diesel in particular took a hammering, dropping by a fifth as its market share dropped from 50 per cent last year to 43.7 per cent.

There had been a surge in March as buyers sought to get purchases in ahead of vehicle excise duty changes.

Pantheon Macroeconomics chief UK economist Samuel Tombs said the weakness wasn't just to do with tax changes, however.

"This tax rise encouraged many people to undertake car purchases in March, when registrations rose 4.4 per cent year-over-year," said Tombs. "Still, year-to-date registrations are down 4.2 per cent year-over-year, signalling a fundamental decline in new car demand.

"Demand is weakening because consumer confidence has fallen and real wages now are declining, making households reluctant to commit to big-ticket purchases."

Read more: UK car registrations stall again as General Election looms

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