Growth in the sales of petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) were more than offset by plunging diesel sales, pushing the new car market to another decline in February.

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) 80,805 new cars were registered, a 2.8% drop compared with February 2017.

Sales of petrol and alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rose in February, up 14.4% and 7.2% respectively, but registrations of new diesel cars declined 23.5%.

Petrol fuelled cars took a 60.6% market share, up from 51.5% last year, and AFVs’ market share rose from 4% to 4.4%, but the market share for diesel cars fell from 44.5% to 35.0%.

So far this year, the UK new car market has declined by 5.1%, with registrations by business, private and fleet buyers all down, 29.8%, 7.1% and 2.1% respectively.

The Ford Fiesta was the biggest seller with nearly twice as many units sold as its nearest competitor, the Volkswagen Golf.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Although the new car market has dipped, it remains at a good level despite the drop in demand for diesel. Consumers should be reassured, however, that the latest cars are the cleanest in history and can help address air quality issues, which is why they are exempt from any restrictions. Looking ahead to the crucial number plate change month of March, we expect a further softening, given March 2017 was a record as registrations were pulled forward to avoid VED changes.”