UK drivers are still splashing out on new vehicles but Europe's car market suffered its worst May for 20 years.
Sales were down 5.9 per cent against a year earlier across the European Union, falling to just 1.04 million, the ACEA car makers' association said. This was the worst May since 1993, when sales dropped below 1 million.
The downturn punished all major markets as the eurozone wallows in a sixth straight quarter of recession and record unemployment. Sales plummeted 9.9 per cent in Germany and 10.4 per cent in France but roared up 11 per cent in the UK, the only major market to show growth.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders puts the resilience of the UK market down to a variety of factors, including improved financing conditions and households spending windfalls from insurance claims. Buyers are also replacing cars bought under the Government's scrappage scheme in 2009.
Mass-market car makers such as Renault, Ford, General Motors and Fiat all suffered double-digit sales declines in May.