Plunging diesel sales pushed the UK new car market to a decline for a seventh consecutive month in October, with 158,192 new units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Overall demand fell by 12.2% in the month, with diesel sales taking their biggest hit yet, down 29.9%, but petrol was up slightly at 2.7%. Alternatively Fuelled Vehicle (AFV) demand continued to rise, up 36.9% to 8,244 registrations.

There were declines across all sectors, with business and fleet demand down 26.8% and 13.0% respectively. Meanwhile, dealers reported 10.1% fewer private buyers taking delivery of new cars in the month.

Year-to-date, the overall market is down 4.6% on 2016 levels, with 2,224,603 cars registered in the first 10 months. This aligns with SMMT’s latest forecast for 2017, with the market expected to end the year on 2.565 million units – a 4.7% decline.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new car market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel. Consumers need urgent reassurance that the latest, low emission diesel cars on sale will not face any bans, charges or other restrictions, anywhere in the UK. We urge the Government to use the forthcoming Autumn Budget to restore stability to the market, encouraging the purchase of the latest low emission vehicles as fleet renewal is the fastest and most effective way of addressing air quality concerns.”