The UK, France and Spain were major European markets where new car sales fell in May.
In the UK, new car registrations fell by 1.7 percent to 150,431 last month, compared with the year before, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said. The drop was the smallest decline since last July.
Registrations over the first five months of the year were down 7.3 percent at 846,513 units, the organization said, adding that the industry is on track to meet its full-year forecast of 1.93 million units.
French car sales fell 8.3 percent last month to 197,784 registrations, as for the second month sales figures reflected the end of government incentives to replace old models.
Sales in Spain fell 23.3 percent in May to 78,870 units, the eleventh straight month of falls after the removal of government subsidies last July.
Germany and Italy were bright spots for car sales last month.
In Germany, new car sales rose by 22 percent to 304,543 units in May. In the first five months of 2011, 1.33 million new cars were registered in Germany, up 13 percent from the year, according to the Federal Motor Vehicle Office (KBA).
In comparison with much of Europe, Germany, the region's biggest economy, is enjoying a period of strong economic growth and unemployment is currently at its lowest level for over 20 years.
Italy too saw a rise in May registrations, with 70,603 units, up 3.58 percent from the year before, the country's Transport Ministry said.
Italy's sales rebound came after sales had been in decline following the end of government scrappage subsidies in March 2010. Federauto, the federation of Italian car dealers, called the May upturn "illusory," since it included thousands of vehicles which were self-registered by automakers and dealers to reach the set sales targets, but not sold to customers.
Reuters contributed to this report