New car sales accelerated ahead last month, official figures showed today.
There were 162,288 new registrations in May - a 7.9% rise on the May 2011 total, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
Last month's increase was the largest for 23 months, boosted by 14.3% growth in private sales.
The May rise took the total for the year so far to 868,166 - a 2.6% rise on the January-May figure last year.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: "May's increase is good news for the motor industry and the UK economy, particularly the steady growth in demand from private buyers.
"There is no doubt that vehicle manufacturers and their dealer networks are working hard to deliver value for money to motorists, and the consistent climb in new car registrations during the first five months of the year suggests that confidence is returning, despite financial uncertainty in the eurozone."
The May total was more than 6% higher than the SMMT had forecast and was boosted by a 86% rise in the mini sector.
Helped by last month's good figures, sales to private motorists have risen 8.5% over the first five months of this year.
There was a 31.8% rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles last month.
Overall, sales rose for the third successive month to produce the highest monthly increase since June 2010 when registrations were boosted by the Government's car-scrappage scheme.
The best-selling models in May
1. Vauxhall Corsa
2. Ford Fiesta
3. Ford Focus
4. Volkswagen Golf
5. Vauxhall Astra
6. BMW 3 Series
7. Volkswagen Polo
8. Nissan Qashqai
9, Vauxhall Insignia
10. Fiat 500