The UK new car market declined for the second month in a row in October, with 153,599 vehicles registered, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

It said deliveries fell by 2.9% compared with the same month last year, as model changes and backlogs at test houses conducting tough new WLTP emissions certification continued to cause shortages across some brands.

Demand for diesel cars continued to decline, with sales down by 21.3%. Registrations of petrol cars rose 7.1%, while the market for alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) once again showed strong growth, up 30.7%, although this was from a small base and they now account for 6.9% of the market.

In the year to date, the overall new car sector remains down 7.2% on the same period last year.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “VED upheaval, regulatory changes and confusion over diesel have all made their mark on the market this year so it’s good to see plug-in registrations buck the trend. Demand is still far from the levels needed to offset losses elsewhere, however, and is making government’s decision to remove purchase incentives even more baffling.

“We’ve always said that world-class ambitions require world-class incentives and, even before the cuts to the grant, those ambitions were challenging. We need policies that encourage rather than confuse. Government’s forthcoming review of WLTP’s impact on taxation must ensure that buyers of the latest, cleanest cars are not unfairly penalised else we will see older, more polluting cars remain on the road for longer.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), commented: “October’s small decline in new car sales shows that WLTP continues to distort the market and constrain the supply of new vehicles to the UK.”

She added: “NFDA is encouraged by the strong sales of used vehicles and the continuously increasing market share of AFVs, whose sales were up 30.7% in October. It is vital that this key segment of the market continues to be supported by the Government.

“As stock supply improves, we expect the market to perform better going forward and, in particular, in the first quarter of 2019.”