The decline in sales of new diesel cars showed no signs of slowing in July, with their market share falling to 31.9%, down from 42.7% for the same month a year ago.

The UK overall new car market remained stable in July, with year-on-year demand growing by 1.2%, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 163,898 new cars were registered in the month, but diesel sales were down 24.4%, from 69,161 to 52,303, while petrol sales were up 20.1% from 83,965 to 100,861. Alternatively fuelled vehicle sales were up 21.0% from 8,871 to 10,734, with market share of hybrids and plug-ins reaching a record 6.5%. Growth was particularly strong for plug-in hybrids, up by a third (33.5%), while hybrid registrations grew 17.5%, followed by battery electric cars, up 2.4%.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The feel-good factor from a sun and sport-packed July, combined with some fantastic deals on a raft of exciting new models, clearly helped keep showrooms relatively busy last month.

“It’s great to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefiting from this growth, and government’s acknowledgement of the vital role new-tech diesel will play in its Road to Zero strategy should help more even more motorists benefit from the latest, safest and low emission technology over the coming months.”

 “With the introduction of Worldwide Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) in September 2018, we expect a strong month for new and nearly new sales in August as consumers will have the opportunity to find good deals in the sector,” said Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA).

She added: “It is important to consider that a number of factors such as WLTP and VED have been affecting the market this year and will continue to do so over the next few months.

“Despite the decline of diesel, sales of alternative fuel vehicles continue to grow substantially, but their market share is still relatively small. With the introduction of the new emission testing from September, new, compliant diesel cars will remain an appealing choice for new car buyers who regularly drive long distances. We look forward to a stronger than usual performance next month.”