New car sales accelerated ahead last month, latest official figures have shown.
There were 162,288 new registrations in May - a 7.9 per cent rise on the May 2011 total, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
Last month’s increase was the largest for 23 months, boosted by 14.3 per cent growth in private sales.
The May rise took the total for the year so far to 868,166 - a 2.6 per cent rise on the January-May figure last year.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: “May’s increase is good news for the motor industry and the UK economy, particularly the steady growth in demand from private buyers.
“There is no doubt that vehicle manufacturers and their dealer networks are working hard to deliver value for money to motorists, and the consistent climb in new car registrations during the first five months of the year suggests that confidence is returning, despite financial uncertainty in the eurozone.”
The May total was more than six per cent higher than the SMMT had forecast.
Helped by last month’s good figures, sales to private motorists have risen 8.5 per cent over the first five months of this year.
There was a 31.8 per cent rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles last month.
Overall, sales rose for the third successive month to produce the highest monthly increase since June 2010 when registrations were boosted by the Government’s car-scrappage scheme.
These were the best-selling models in May: 1. Vauxhall Corsa, 2. Ford Fiesta, 3. Ford Focus, 4. Volkswagen Golf, 5. Vauxhall Astra, 6. BMW 3 Series, 7. Volkswagen Polo, 8. Nissan Qashqai, 9. Vauxhall Insignia and 10. Fiat 500.