Small and compact SUVs were the only segments to post double-digit growth in Europe in May 2019 while VW Group and PSA drove the growth in those segments, outselling Renault-Nissan, according to Jato Dynamics analysis. Registrations of pure electric cars (BEV) soared by 85% but still only counted for a marginal piece of the sales pie.

The European car market remained stable for the second consecutive month as 1.44m vehicles were registered, a 0.2% year on year increase.

This may signal an end to the extended period of decline between September 2018 and March 2019 but January to May sales were still down 2% to 6.91m.

Last month saw the highest volume for the month of May since 2007, when registrations also totalled 1.44m units.

Felipe Munoz, JATO’s global analyst, said: “The market had a welcoming response to the latest vehicle launches in May. Moving forward, there’s still a long way to go until we see real progress with EVs which means SUVs will continue to be the best hope for carmakers selling cars in Europe.”

Demand for subcompact, compact, midsize and executive/luxury cars and MPVs fell during May but demand for SUVs was up 10% to 534,700 units.

SUVs accounted for 37.2% of total registrations and a market share increase of 3.2 percentage points. Year to date sales rose 8% to 2.56m.

Small and compact SUVs combined accounted for 81% of the segment’s total registrations. This was largely due to the good reception for the latest arrivals  such as the Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross, Hyundai Kona and revamped Dacia Duster which led to an increase of 13% to 209,600 registrations.

This was a remarkable increase over the last 10 years, considering there were only 125,000 small SUV registrations across the whole of 2009.

Demand for compact SUVs grew by 10% to 225,900 units, led by the VW Tiguan, Peugeot 3008 and Nissan Qashqai.

“While consumers continue to lose interest in traditional hatchbacks, and carmakers remain reluctant to bring new additions to those segments, small and compact SUVs are the most desirable alternatives. Although they are slightly more expensive, they feature cooler designs and offer more comfort and a high seating position. Not to mention that the offer is continuously updated with the latest arrivals,” said Munoz.

When including all subsegments (small, compact, midsize and large), Volkswagen Group was the clear leader in the SUV segment, recording 123,100 SUV registrations, up 29%.

PSA was second with 93,100, up 12%.

Renault-Nissan posted a decline as volume dropped 5% to 83,300. By model, the Dacia Duster led SUV rankings followed by the Tiguan and T-Roc.

While SUVs continue to rule the market, electrified cars still make up a very small portion. Registrations of pure electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars totalled 94,000 units in 18 European markets in May, counting for 7.1% of the total volume. The majority of registrations came from hybrid vehicles, but the growth was driven by pure electric cars, where registrations jumped from 12,300 units in May 2018 to 22,300 last month.

The Renault Zoe was the top selling electric car last month, but the Tesla Model 3 continued to lead the year to date rankings. However, Model 3 registrations fell from 15,755 in March to 3,659 in April, and 2,820 in May.

“A large part of Tesla’s global plans depend on how the brand can maintain the sales growth of the Model 3. The sedan needs to continue to grab the attention of consumers in Europe, as US demand has almost peaked already. The initial good start we saw in March has somewhat dissipated in April and May,” said Munoz.

Meanwhile, May saw improved performance for the Dacia Duster, Volkswagen T-Roc, Mercedes A-Class, Toyota Rav4 and Corolla, Audi Q3, BMW 1-Series, Opel Grandland, Hyundai Kona and Audi A6.

Among the latest launches, 425 units of the Volkswagen T-Cross were sold; 7,940 Citroen C5 Aircross; 4,405 Peugeot Rifter; 3,592 Peugeot 508; 3,349 Seat Tarraco; 2,820 Tesla Model 3; 2,647 Skoda Scala; 2,323 Lexus UX; 2,100 VW Touareg; and 1,915 Opel Combo.