LONDON (Reuters) -- UK new-car sales rose 11 percent to 180,111 in May, marking the 15th consecutive month of growth for the market. The rise is in stark contrast to other key European markets, which have seen drops in demand.
UK consumers bought more cars last month than in any May since 2005, adding to signs the economy is recovering faster than its European peers.
Private registrations accounted for 84,202, a rise of 21 percent. In the first five months, overall deliveries have jumped 9 percent to 948,666.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said in a statement today that May marked the first time that monthly car sales to private buyers have exceeded those for the same month before the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
"The performance of new-car registrations in May marks a significant milestone for UK automotive," said Mike Baunton, the industry trade body's interim CEO.
Ford has the two best-selling models, with its Fiesta subcompact and compact Focus, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa subcompact and Volkswagen's compact Golf.
'Best deals since 1979'
John Leech, UK head of automotive at KPMG, says that a number of factors are driving the increase.
"The new-car market in the UK continues to be buoyed by substantial discounts offered by car manufacturers directly to consumers, such as 0 percent finance. Analysts at CAP Automotive recently claimed that motorists are enjoying the best new-car deals since 1979," he said in a statement. "Secondly, UK banks are midway through settling PPI mis-selling compensation claims with UK consumers, which have averaged 2,700 pounds per claimant over the past two years and totaled 9 billion pounds so far. These one-off lump sums have released pent-up demand for cars."
He added that these factors are likely to remain in place for the coming months.
More good news
The SMMT numbers follow a positive week for British data, with purchasing managers' indices pointing to 0.5 percent economic growth in the second quarter and consumer confidence up.
British car sales have performed much more strongly than in most of the rest of Europe, and over the past year have defied a generally gloomy picture for consumer demand in Britain, helped by cheap finance and other factors.
On Tuesday, data released in Germany showed that new-car sales fell 10 percent in Europe's biggest car market, while in France, deliveries fell 10 percent. In Italy, registrations were down 8 percent and in Spain, they dropped 3 percent in the same period.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report