Sales of diesel cars have continued to fall sharply, causing the third monthly decline in the UK new car market, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Overall registrations fell by 4.8%, a lower decline than in the previous two months, to 243,454 new units registered in June. But while petrol registrations were up 2.5% to 129,169, diesel fell by 14.7% to 103,564.

Meanwhile, the alternative fuelled vehicle (AFV) sector achieved significant growth, with demand rising 29.0% to 10,721 units to maintain a record 4.4% market share for a second month.

SMMT chief executive said: “As forecast, demand for new cars has started to cool following five consecutive years of solid growth but the numbers are still strong and the first half of the year is the second biggest on record. Provided consumer and business confidence holds, we expect demand to remain at a similarly high level over the coming months.

“It’s encouraging to see alternatively fuelled vehicles experiencing rapid growth but adoption is still at a relatively low level and more long-term incentives are required if this new generation of vehicles is to be a more common sight on British roads.

Sue Robinson, director of the NFDA, pointed out that for the half year sales were only 1.3% down on the record performance for the same period last year, adding: “New car registration figures for June demonstrate the stability of the UK new car market.”

She added: “The decrease in diesel registrations shows that there is some confusion surrounding diesel. Modern Euro 6 diesel cars should not be compared to older diesel vehicles.

“It is encouraging to see that more consumers seem to be shifting towards alternative fuel vehicles, which retain a record market share. This is particularly positive as NFDA members remain in the best place to service this burgeoning sector.”