LONDON -- UK new-car registrations fell 8.5 percent last month, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on Monday, blaming the decline on the run-up to this week's national election and the effect of an April tax hike which boosted demand earlier in the year.
Car sales dropped to 186,265 vehicles in May, with a 14 percent slump in demand to consumers and a 5.3 percent drop in fleet business registrations, according to data from the SMMT.
"We expected demand in the new car market to remain negative in May due to the pull-forward to March," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said, referring to a rise in vehicle excise duty which boosted demand before it came into effect in April.
"Added to this, the general election was always likely to give many pause for thought and affect purchasing patterns in the short term," he said.
The UK will vote in the general election on Thurdsay.
Demand for diesel continued to fall last month with sales down 20 percent, as a series of tax hikes in London and possible levies in other cities continued to dampen demand.
• Download sales by brand for May and five months here.
Through May, registrations in the UK fell 0.5 percent to 1.16 million, the SMMT said. The body has forecast that demand would fall by at least 5 percent this year due to Brexit and after consecutive record performances.
In contrast to other major European markets, the UK reported a drop in sales growth last month. Registrations in Germany rose 13 percent in May, while French sales were up 9 percent. In Italy volume grew 8 percent, while in Spain sales jumped 11 percent.