LONDON -- UK registrations increased 3.4 percent in May as growing demand from individual consumers offset a decline from business buyers.
Demand rose to 192,649 units, according to industry association SMMT. Sales were boosted by a 10 percent increase among private buyers after a sharp fall in the same month last year. Business sales declined by 9.6 percent.
UK sales had been declining until last month due to buyers shunning diesel over fears of possible new taxes and weaker consumer confidence in the wake of the Brexit vote.
"May’s growth, albeit on the back of large declines last year, is encouraging and suggests the market is now starting to return to a more natural running rate," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said.
Diesel car sales fell 24 percent to percent 32.3 percent market share. Demand for gasoline vehicles rose by 24 percent to a 61.8 percent market share.
Ford leads, Vauxhall falls
Ford was the UK's top-selling brand in May with a 3 percent sales rise, followed by VW brand, which posted a 16 percent jump. Third-placed Vauxhall's volume fell 0.4 percent, just ahead of No. 4 Audi, whose sales dropped 0.5 percent. Registrations at No. 5 Mercedes-Benz fell 8.6 percent, while BMW brand gained 1.6 percent.
• Click here for May UK sales by brand
Other monthly winners included Seat, whose registrations rose 46 percent, Dacia, which gained 30 percent, Jaguar with 20 percent growth and Land Rover, whose volume increased 17 percent. Renault was up 15 percent, while French rivals Citroen and Peugeot increased 9.4 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. Mini brand sales rose 2.4 percent.
Losers included Fiat, which dropped 36 percent and Skoda, which declined 5.6 percent.
Among Asian automakers, Nissan had a bad month with volume down 18 percent while rivals had sales gains. Hyundai's volume rose 0.9 percent and Kia was up 0.5 percent. Toyota sales increased 0.8 percent.
Through May, the overall market fell 6.8 percent to 1.07 million. IHS Markit predicts full-year sales to fall 4.3 percent to 2.43 million units. "Furthermore, we expect additional falls in 2019, before an upswing begins in 2020," the forecasting firm said.
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report