The UK new car market declined in June as plunging diesel sales offset increases in petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).

Year-on-year demand fell by 3.5%, with sales of 234,945 new cars, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

There was a 45.0% increase in plug-in and hybrid registrations, and petrol car sales were up 12.3%. However, this growth was not enough to offset continuing decline in diesel registrations, with a 28.2% fall.

Demand from larger fleets fell 6.4%, but business buyers with fewer than 25 vehicles on their books returned to showrooms, registering an 11.3% uplift in demand after an 11-month long hiatus. Private demand was largely flat, at -0.6%.

Ford Fiesta was the best-selling model, followed by Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Corsa.

June capped off a turbulent first half of the year, distorted by the previous year’s VED hikes, with the market experiencing a severe double-digit decline in March followed by a stronger April and May, when year-on-year demand grew. Year-to-date overall demand is down by 6.3% to 1,313,994 units.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Despite a rocky first six months for the new car market, it’s great to see demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles continue to rise. Given these cars still represent only one in 20 registrations, however, they cannot yet have the impact in driving down overall emissions that conventional vehicles, including diesels, continue to deliver.

“Recent government statements acknowledging the importance of petrol and diesel are encouraging. However, we now need a strategy that supports industry investment into next generation technologies and puts motorists back in the driving seat, encouraged to buy the car that best suits their needs – whatever its fuel type.”