Vauxhall Corsa is runner-up to Ford Fiesta in UK year to date sales chart. Redesigned Corsa (photo) is launched soon

Vauxhall Corsa is runner-up to Ford Fiesta in UK year to date sales chart. Redesigned Corsa (photo) is launched soon

New car registrations in the UK rose 2.4% in May to 198,706 units, for a 39th consecutive month of growth.

The SMMT noted demand for ultra low emission vehicles has more than quadrupled this year to date, to 11,842, compared with 2,838 this time in 2014.

"The growth is further evidence of UK car buyers’ increasing awareness of the significant benefits of driving a ULEV, as they look to reduce their running costs and environmental impact. Motorists can now choose from a diverse range of around 20 ULEVs, compared to just six in 2011."

Year to date registrations rose 5.7% to 1,119,072 "as the market stabilises", according to the SMMT.

A range of new products and attractive finance deals with low interest rates continues to draw buyers to showrooms.

"With many purchases on a three-year replacement cycle, new cars bought as the recession ended are now being replaced," the SMMT said.

Chief executive Mike Hawes added: "The remarkable growth in demand for plug in vehicles is expected to continue as the range of ultra low emission vehicles on sale increases. Meanwhile, we anticipate a natural levelling out of the overall new car market throughout the remainder of 2015."

David Raistrick, UK automotive head at Deloitte said: "It was always going to be a tough challenge for the UK new car market to maintain its run of comparative monthly growth, despite the strong start to the year. It is quite an achievement to have stretched the success story to a 39th consecutive month. The relatively positive UK economic picture is clearly supporting this key UK market.

"The growth in fleet sales has been key to the UK new car market maintaining this upward trend, as there has been a distinct slowing in the increase in private sales, compared to 2014. May’s results showed that the increase in new cars sold to private buyers over the first five months rose by only about 6,600, compared to a rise of 57,700 for the first five months of last year. Yet growth in fleet sales has increased from 40,000 cars to 58,000 cars in the same period.

"This could be the first real indication that the consumer led growth, which kick-started the UK new car market nearly three years ago, is levelling off and is not sustainable. With the UK car parc standing at around 32.6m cars on the road, this represents over one car for every two people. This figure suggests that there is little prospect of the UK car parc increasing significantly enough to allow for the continued rate of growth in new car sales, whilst also supporting the used car market and underpinning residual values.

"Recent car production data also highlighted that while production for the year has passed 500,000 cars, this is actually down 1.4% on the same period last year. Manufacturers were relying on supply in the UK car market to make up for a 7% drop in vehicles for export."

Car regs May 15 4