Industry bosses described the 8.1 per cent year-on-year decrease north of the Border as disappointing but pointed out that May 2014 had been a record performance for that month. For the first five months of 2015, sales of new cars in Scotland are on a par with the year before.
Douglas Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish Motor Trade Association, said: “Obviously we are disappointed once again to see a reduction, but I think we need to bear in mind that May 2014 was the best May we had ever had, so it’s not the case that the 2015 figures reflect a poor month.
“However, we did predict a levelling of demand over the year as a whole and, as we are now on a par with last year’s cumulative figure for the year, this would appear to confirm our predictions.”
The figures show that new car registrations in Scotland totalled 16,357 units in May, compared with 17,800 a year earlier. The Vauxhall Corsa, which was recently relaunched, was the best-seller, following by the Ford Fiesta.
Across the UK, car sales continued to rise with the number of new registrations increasing for the 39th month in a row to almost 200,000.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which compiles all of the data, also reported “remarkable” growth in demand for plug-in vehicles amid a huge increase in sales of low emission cars.
A total of 198,706 cars were sold last month, a 2.4 per cent increase on May last year, or 4,674 extra vehicles.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “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.”
Sales of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) neared 12,000 between January and May, a four-fold increase on the 2,838 registrations in the same period last year.
The SMMT said the figures showed motorists’ increasing awareness of the “significant benefits” of driving a ULEV, as they look to reduce running costs and environmental impact. There are now around 20 ULEVs, compared with six in 2011.
More than 1.1 million new cars have been sold so far this year, with the SMMT noting that as many purchases are on a three-year replacement cycle, new cars bought as the recession ended are now being replaced.