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May new car registrations down just 1.7%

Barely 3,000 fewer cars were registered in May than in the same month last year, in a positive sign that the new car market may be reaching a turning point.

The 150,431 unit market was down by just 1.7% year-on-year, the smallest fall reported by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders since registrations began heading south in July 2010.

Download the SMMT new car registrations figures for May 2011

SMMT data shows there were strong performances in the fleet and business sectors. Private demand continues to fall, down 15.3% in May and by 18.9% over the year-to-date.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: “Consumers remain cautious, but with significantly improved fuel economy, service plans and more affordable finance, there is great value on offer across the market.”

Sue Robinson, director of the RMI National Franchised Dealers Association, shared Everitt’s view, adding: “Consumers still have a lack of confidence to buy big ticket items such as new cars and this is causing some weakness in the retail car market.

"That said, with significant offers with areas such as service plans and finance, there is considerable incentive for consumers and businesses alike to purchase new vehicles.

“We anticipate much greater improvement to the market at the back end of the year which we believe will continue into 2012 when the market will be much stronger.”

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