Alfa Romeo (top, MiTo) was the biggest year-on-year winner in the British new car market last month with its sales up 42.89 percent on the same month last year although Fiat (bottom, 500) wasn't able to match this success and underperformed the market which has now fallen for more than a year

Alfa Romeo was the biggest year-on-year winner in the British new car market last month with its sales up 42.89 percent on the same month last year although Fiat wasn't able to match this success and underperformed the market which has now fallen for more than a year. The new car market in the UK has continued its downward trend this year and it fell a further 24.77 percent in May, although this was slightly down on the 27.89 percent decline recorded over the first five months of 2009.

The UK government's scrappage incentive scheme came into effect on 18 May and since the announcement in the Budget over 35,000 orders have been reported to BERR. However, it will take some time for those orders to translate into registrations. As details of the scheme were finalised it is expected that some consumers may also have been holding off purchasing a car, awaiting the best deal.

Alfa Romeo was the biggest year-on-year winner on the UK new car market last month (discounting the niche sales of Cadillac which sold 21 cars in May compared to just 8 in the same month last year) as the Milanese brand chalked up 683 sales versus 478 in May 2008 to put it up an impressive 42.89 percent year-on-year and give it a 0.51 percent share of the total market compared to 0.27 the previous year. The only other brands to join Alfa Romeo and Cadillac in making positive year-on-year gains last month were Ssangyong (+42.03 percent), Hyundai (+36.61 percent), Chevrolet (+21.76 percent), Kia (+20.51 percent), Suzuki (+14.02 percent) and Proton (+2.27 percent).

Fiat underperformed the overall market but much of its lacklustre performance can probably be put down to potential customers waiting for the scrappage scheme to properly kick in. In May Fiat saw 3,188 sales compared to 5,135 in the same month a year ago and this put it down 37.92 percent year-on-year which however also compared unfavourably with the overall market's drop of 24.77 percent. This meant its market share for May was 2.36 percent compared to 2.86 percent in the same period a year ago. Abarth sold 111 cars in May but as Fiat Group Automobiles' sports brand wasn't on sale in the UK a year ago there is no year-on-year data to compare this with.

Diesel penetration fell for a second successive month in the UK, from 44.8 percent in May 2008 to 44.0 percent this May. This reflects the shift towards smaller cars, which, apart from Fiat's 1.3 Multijet unit tend to be petrol engined. The mini segment was the only segment to record volume growth, up 50.3 percent. The supermini segment saw market share rise, from 32.2 percent to 34.6 percent, although Fiat's Grande Punto was unable to capitalise on this while Ford’s Fiesta was again the overall market’s best seller in both the month and year-to-date.

Over the first five months of the year the UK market is down almost 290,000 units, and on a rolling annual basis down 555,663 units to 1,842 million units. The market recorded its 13th straight decline in volumes in May. The fall is evident across all sales types, although in May private demand was down a relatively modest 13.8 percent. In part this reflects the fall in private demand last year, but is also likely to be an early sign of revival under the scrappage scheme.

Alfa Romeo continues to be the best performing brand in the UK for the year-to-date and with 2,977 of its cars registered so far this year compared to 2,738 in May 2008 it is up 8.73 percent year-on-year and has increased its share of the market from 0.26 to 0.40 percent year-on-year. In fact Alfa Romeo is one of just two carmakers that have seen sales gains this year, the other being Hyundai which is up 8.00 percent. All the other brands selling cars in the UK have fallen with the big losers including Daihatsu (-59.60 percent), Renault (-57.22 percent), Proton (+55.13 percent), Subaru -(52.16 percent) Saab (-45.79 percent), Skoda (-35.12 percent). Fiat has really struggled during 2009 in the UK and after the first five months of the year it has 17,197 registrations compared to the 26,008 it notched up in the same period last year, putting it down 33.88 percent year-on-year and shrinking its market share from 2.50 to 2.30 percent. Meanwhile the Abarth brand has sold 519 examples of its two model range, the 500 Abarth and the Grande Punto Abarth, in the UK so far this year.

Fiat new partner Chrysler has seen its sales crash in the UK this year, and the failed carmaker's brands were amongst the worse performers last month. The Chrysler brand saw just 132 registrations in May, compared to 761 in the same month last year, to put it down -82.65 percent year-on-year, the Dodge brand had a much better May though with 233 units being the same as it managed a year ago, while Jeep also slumped, 223 units last month compared to 442 in May 2008 put it down 49.55 percent year-on-year. After the first five months of the year the picture is just as bleak: Chrysler with 857 registrations is down 75.43 percent, Dodge with 778 is down 65.94 percent and Jeep with 834 is down 64.14 percent.

“While consumer confidence is improving, the UK motor industry is still facing a difficult economic climate,” said SMMT chief executive, Paul Everitt. SMMT collates and releases the new car registrations data for the UK. “We have seen an encouraging start to the scrappage incentive scheme with 35,000 orders being placed since it was announced, although it will take time to feed into registration figures.”

© 2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed