New car market subdued ahead of the general election

Jaguar Land Rover

The UK new car market declined last month, with demand falling 8.5% compared to May last year, latest figures have shown.

Almost without exception, the major manufacturers saw a decline in sales as consumers adopted a more cautious approach to big ticket items.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show 186,265 new cars were registered last month, down from 203,585 last May.

With private buyers shunning the dealers, business purchases drove the market, up 20.1% on last year.

Despite a dip of 0.6% in overall registrations since January, more than 1.1 million new cars have been registered on UK roads so far in 2017. Business and fleet sectors have driven demand, up 5.3% and 2.4% respectively to offset a decline from private buyers of 4.2%.

Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMMT said the picture had been expected.

“We expected demand in the new car market to remain negative in May due to the pull-forward to March – which was an all-time record month – resulting from VED reform. 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.

“Although demand has fallen, it’s important to remember that the market remains at a very high level and, with a raft of new models packed with the latest low emission and connected technology coming to market this summer, we expect the market to remain strong over the year.”

Vehicle manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover enjoyed mixed fortunes but strong global demand bolstered the manufacturer.

Jaguar sales rose by 28% year-on-year in May, on the back of strong demand for the Jaguar XF and Jaguar F-PACE.

Nevertheless, in the UK its sales were down 1% to 2,564 (2016: 2,590), while Land Rover saw a 10.7% decline.

Overall, retail sales for Jaguar Land Rover were 45,487 in May, up 1% on May 2016. The company sold 265,381 vehicles in the first five months of 2017, 8% up on the same period in the previous year.

Retail sales for May were up year-on-year in China, by 23%, and North America by 15.5%. Sales were down by 6% in Europe, and 15% in the Overseas region as economic conditions remained challenging in emerging markets including Brazil, The Middle East and North Africa, and Russia. UK sales were down 11%.

Jaguar sales in May were a new record for the month at 13,613 vehicles. Land Rover sold 31,874 vehicles, down 7% on the same month last year.

Amongst its rivals in the UK, Audi and BMW both saw declines last month but Mercedes Benz was one of the few manufacturers to show a positive.

However, none could hold a candle to Aston Martin, which showed a 120% year on year rise at 148 cars against 67 this time last year. The figures are no fluke, for the first five months of the year, the Gaydon firm is up 127%, with 870 cars sold against 382 this time last year.

In the volume market, Ford was still the only manufacturer to show a double-digit market share (11%) – this despite a near 14% fall in sales. Long time rival Vauxhall continued its decline, down 14% to a market share of 7.5%. Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz have now both overtaken the Griffin in the UK market.