The UK’s new car market grew marginally in February, up 1.4% following five straight months of decline, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 81,969 new cars were registered on UK roads in the month (a year-on-year uplift of 1,164 units), traditionally one of the quietest of the year, ahead of the March plate change.

Demand for diesel cars fell again, but the decline of 14.3% (to 24,284 and market share of 29.6%) was not as severe as in recent months. Petrol continued to grow, up 8.3% to 53,164 and a market share of 64.9%.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles continued to surge, up 34.0% and marking the 22nd consecutive month of growth for the segment, but their 4,521 units still only represented a market share of 5.5%. Registrations of zero-emission electric cars more than doubled to 731 units, although they still accounted for less than 1% of the market (0.9%).

Meanwhile, in the four months since the Government removed its grant from plug-in hybrids, the market for these vehicles has only grown 1.7%, compared with 29.5% over the first 10 months of 2018.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “It’s encouraging to see market growth in February, albeit marginal, especially for electrified models. Car makers have made huge commitments to bring to market an ever-increasing range of exciting zero- and ultra-low-emission vehicles and give buyers greater choice.

“These cars still only account for a fraction of the overall market, however, so if the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed. The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive measures are needed, else ambitions will never be realised.”