The UK new car market declined by -4.6 per cent in May with 183,724 units registered, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The fall reflects continued uncertainty over diesel and clean air zones as well as the removal of incentives for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Meanwhile, the underlying economic and political instability continues to affect consumer and business confidence.
Declines were recorded across all sales types in the month, with registrations by private consumers, fleets, and business buyers declining by -5.0 per cent, -3.0 per cent, and -29.0 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 per cent and 16.0 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 (1.0 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 lower 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, and will not face charges or restrictions anywhere in the UK.
Meanwhile, petrol electric hybrids experienced increased demands, up 34.6 per cent to 7785 units.
Battery electric cars also recorded a significant rise of 81.1 per cent, yet this segment also 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 May and -25.1 per cent year-to-date.
This compares with a 36.2 per cent increase in the first five months of 2018 and is further evidence of the removal of the purchase incentives for PHEVs.
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of SMMT, 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.”