The UK new car market declined by 4.6 per cent in May with 183,724 units registered, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Declines were recorded across all sales types in the month, with registrations by private consumers, fleets and business buyers declining by 5, 3 and 29 per cent respectively.
Most vehicle segments experienced a fall in demand, however, executive and dual purpose vehicles bucked the trend, with registrations growing 9.1 and 1 per cent.
While demand for superminis and small family cars fell, these vehicles remain the most popular taking a combined 56.3 per cent of the market.
Modest growth in registrations of petrol one per cent and alternatively fuelled vehicles 11.7 per cent was not enough to offset the significant decline in demand for diesels, which fell for the 26th consecutive month.
Ongoing anti-diesel sentiment and the forthcoming introduction of low emission zones continues to affect buyer confidence.
However, thanks to significant industry investment in new technology, the latest diesels are safer and cleaner than ever before and will not face charges or restrictions anywhere in the UK.
Meanwhile, petrol electric hybrids experienced increased demand, up 34.6 per cent to 7,785 units.
Battery electric cars also recorded a significant rise of 81.1 per cent yet this segment still only represented 1.1 per cent of the overall market.
However, following recent trends, plug-in hybrids experienced another substantial decline, down -40.6 per cent in
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Confusing policy messages and changes to incentives continue to affect consumer and business confidence, causing drivers to keep hold of their older, more polluting vehicles for longer.
“New cars are safer, cleaner and more advanced than ever and, with sophisticated safety, efficiency and comfort features as well as a host of attractive deals on offer, there has never been a better time to invest in a new car.”