New car sales were down 1.7 per cent last month, compared to May last year, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders figures show.
SMMT said the number of new cars sold last month was 150,431. Sales for the first five months of 2011 fell 7.3 per cent to 846,513 units.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: “New car registrations for May were down just 1.7 per cent on 2010 levels, with strong performances in the fleet and business sectors.
“Consumers remain cautious but, with significantly improved fuel economy, service plans and more affordable finance, there is great value on offer across the market.”
New car sales have now fallen for 11 months in a row, but SMMT said May’s decline was the smallest since registrations began to contract in July last year.
SMMT predicted that the market will stabilise in the third quarter of the year and the full-year market will total 1.93 million sales in 2011, a decline of around 34,000 units.
Demand from private car customers continued to fall, down 15.3 per cent in May and by 18.9 per cent over the year to date. Total market volumes have been supported by fleet sales, which rose by 11.1 per cent last month.
Diesel cars accounted for 52.9 per cent of the market in May, from 46.9 per cent last May. VW’s Golf was the best-selling diesel model in May, while the Ford Fiesta was the top-selling car overall.
Registrations of supermini cars posted their first rise in registrations since last June, while sales of executive luxury saloons and dual-purpose cars showed the best growth rates during May.