Plummeting diesel sales pushed the UK new car market to its fifth consecutive month of decline in August, as the fall-out of the emissions scandal continued to dog sales.

According to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), registrations fell -6.4% to 76,433, after a record of 81,640 in August 2016. However, petrol car sales were up 3.8% to 42,160, while diesel car sales were down 21.3% at 30,305.

Last year the relative market shares of petrol and diesel in August were 49.7% versus 47.2%. This year they were 55.2% versus 39.6%.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles achieved a record share of the market at 5.2% with 3,968 registrations. Demand for petrol hybrid and pure electric battery powered cars increased substantially, up 74.9% and 62.5%, while plug-in hybrid registrations rose 38.5%.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “August is typically a quiet month for the new car market as consumers and businesses delay purchases until the arrival of the new number plate in September. With the new 67-plate now available and a range of new models in showrooms, we anticipate the continuation of what are historically high levels of demand.”

Sue Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), said: “Given the substantial decline in diesel registrations, it is crucial that modern Euro 6 diesel cars are not compared to older diesel vehicles. NFDA and its members are working hard to clarify the facts surrounding the whole diesel issue and helping consumers find the car best suited to their needs.”