May new-car registrations up 674%

Another impressive year-on-year increase for new-car registrations, but not enough to bring the market back to pre-Covid levels

A total of 156,737 new cars were registered in May 2021 - up 674.1 per cent on the same month last year, but still around 13.2 per cent below the 10-year May average.

The first national lockdown meant new cars could only be sold via click-and-collect in May 2020, so there were only 20,247 registrations in that month. It was therefore inevitable that May 2021’s figure would be significantly higher, yet this is still 14.7 down on May 2019.

So far in 2021, 723,845 new cars have been registered - 42.5 per cent higher than the same period last year, but 29.1 per cent lower than the 10-year average for January to May. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which published the figures, predicts there will be a total of 1.86 million registrations this year.

Improving economic confidence meant fleet registrations grew more than twice as fast as private purchases in May 2021, accounting for 50.7 per cent of all new car registrations. Private made up 47.1 per cent and business 2.2 per cent.

Registrations of new electric cars fell 12 per cent year on year in May 2021, but the SMMT says this unusual trend was down to variable purchasing patterns resulting from only click-and-collect being available in May 2020.

In the year to date, however, 13.8 per cent of new cars registered have had a plug -  up 7.2 per cent year-on-year, with plug-in hybrids seeing the most rapid growth. Pure petrol and mild hybrid petrol cars have taken a 60.4 per cent market share so far this year, while pure diesel and mild hybrid diesels make up just 18 per cent.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said May’s registrations were “as good as could reasonably be expected”, thanks to “increased business confidence” which “needs to be maintained and translated into private consumer demand”.

He added: “Demand for electrified vehicles is helping encourage people into showrooms, but for these technologies to surpass their fossil-fuelled equivalents, a long-term strategy for market transition and infrastructure investment is required.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams pointed out that May 2021 was “a very significant month for the sale of battery electric cars as the 13,120 sold took the total number registered since 2010 past the 250,000 milestone”.

Find out the best cars coming out in 2021 here...

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