UK new car sales fell 8.5% year on year in May ahead of the general election, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which said 186,265 vehicles were registered in the month, with business purchases driving the market, up 20.1%, to offset declines from private and fleet buyers.

Sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) bounced back in May to continue the upward trend seen in the first quarter and take a new record market share of 4.4%. Over 8,000 AFVs were registered in the month, an increase of 46.7%.

Despite a dip of 0.6% in overall registrations since January, over 1.1m 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%. However, more than half 500,000 new cars have been registered by private buyers since the start of the year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “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 [taxation] reform.

“Added to this, the [8 June] general election was always likely to give many pause for thought and affect purchasing patterns in the short term. 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.”