The rate of decline in sales of new diesel cars slowed last month, but the overall UK new car market was still down by 4.1% in April, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The total number of units registered was 161,064, the second lowest April volume since 2012.

Diesel registrations were down 9.4%, but this was significantly less than declines in recent months, and demand for petrol cars was also down 3.0%. Overall, alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) registrations grew by 12.7%, with 10,254 leaving showrooms. Petrol electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1% to 6,810 units. Battery electric cars also recorded a strong uplift, from 929 to 1,517 units, but this only represents 0.9% of the market.

However, sales of zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids were down 34.4% in April, and 20.4% year-to-date, following the removal of grants on these vehicles.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “While it’s great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero. Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need.

“We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers. This includes investment in infrastructure and long-term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible.”