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Battery electric vehicles outperformed the market in May

Sales of pure battery electric new cars outperformed the market last month, new figures show.

The Kia Sportage was the UK's top-selling model in May

Some 26,031 of the vehicles were registered in May, up 6.2 per cent from the same month last year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

That is compared with a 1.7 per cent year-on-year increase for all types of new cars to 147,678.

Uptake of new electric cars is being driven by purchases for large fleets, with those volumes rising 10.7%.

Registrations of the vehicles by private buyers declined by 2.0%.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "As Britain prepares for next month's General Election, the new car market continues to hold steady as large fleets sustain growth, offsetting weakened private retail demand.

"Consumers enjoy a plethora of new electric models and some very attractive offers, but manufacturers can't sustain this scale of support on their own indefinitely.

"Their success so far should be a signpost for the next government that a faster and fairer transition requires carrots, not just sticks."

Land Rover sales rose 39.4 per cent to 4,730 with Jaguar up 1,6 per cent to 1,363. JLR's electric propulsion manufacturing centre is at the i54, Wolverhampton.

MG, which is based at Longbridge but has its cars made abroad, was up 14.5 per cent to 7,223.

The top-selling brand for May was Volkswagen at 13,503 – up 15.5 per cent on May 2023.

The Kia Sportage was the best-selling model with 4,202 sales in the month.

James Hosking, managing director of AA Cars, said: “The new car market continues to be buoyed by rising fleet sales, which have helped it notch up a 22nd straight month of rising sales despite cooling demand from private buyers.

“This trend highlights diverging commercial and consumer demand for new vehicles. Fleet sales, which are bulk purchases by companies, have remained strong as businesses replenish fleets amid improving sentiment and better economic conditions.

“Meanwhile, sales to individual drivers are lagging behind as consumer sentiment remains weak despite the fall in inflation — prompting some buyers to hold off on big-ticket purchases like cars.

“While the production of new cars in the UK continues to dip as manufacturers retool for the next generation of models, including EVs, this temporary downturn in output should have a minimal impact on sales.

“Consumers looking to purchase new vehicles still have ample options available in the market despite the short-term manufacturing lull.

“It’s a testament to the strength of the UK’s new car market that it is still recording growth each month, despite this quieter period for private sales and production disruptions.”

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association, said May marked a 22nd consecutive month of growth in the new car market”.

“The new electric vehicle market has also seen another month of moderate growth. As has been the trend throughout 2024, fleet continues to be the main driver for new car registrations. A key focus for the next government will be a need to incentivise private demand," she added.

Ian Plummer, commercial director at online vehicle marketplace Auto Trader, said: "The new car market remains sluggish and retail demand has flagged as a dearth of affordable new car models means less choice for consumers, despite fleet buyers underpinning the market.

"Rising new car prices since 2019 mean that even volume brands are suffering as the middle market is hollowed out.

"The share of new models for sale below £20,000 in the past five years has dropped from 17 per cent to just four per cent, underlining the pressure on affordability."

Ben Nelmes, chief executive of green consultancy New AutoMotive, said: "It is great to see tens of thousands more drivers discovering the benefits of going electric.

"A key message from May's data is that you only find growing car sales where there is a battery.

"Having abandoned diesel, consumers are now shunning petrol cars too."

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