The UK new car market grew by 3.4% in May with 192,649 new units registered.
The growth followed a -8.5% decline in the previous May when demand was impacted by VED changes and buyer hesitancy ahead of June 2017’s general election.
It was another tough time for diesel sales, which fell for the 14th consecutive month, down -23.6%, according to figures from the SMMT.
Demand for hybrid and plug-in cars grew by 36.1% to 11,240 units, accounting for a record 5.8% of the market.
Plug-in hybrid cars were the biggest driver of growth, up 72.7%, while hybrids rose 22.6% and zero emission battery electrics grew 18.7%. Registrations of petrol cars also increased, by 23.5%.
Private demand in the month grew by 10.1%, offsetting ongoing declines in the business and fleet sectors, down -9.6% and -0.7% respectively.
In the year to date, the overall market remains down, with new registrations having fallen -6.8%, as economic and political uncertainty continues to impact demand.
Business and fleet confidence, in particular, continues to lag, down -16.2% and -7.1% respectively, while demand from private buyers in the first five months is -5.7% behind 2017 levels.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “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.
“To ensure long-term stability, we need to avoid any further disruption to the market, and this will require sustainable policies that give consumers and businesses the confidence to invest in the new cars that best suit their needs.
“Fleet renewal is the fastest way to improve air quality and reduce CO2, and this applies to hybrid and plug-in technologies as well as the latest low emission petrol and diesels which, for many drivers, remain the right choice economically and environmentally.”