Sales of new cars in the UK have fallen by 5.7 per cent in 2017, in the sharpest decline in eight years. Official figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that even a rise in registrations of petrol and hybrid vehicles could not offset a massive drop in diesel registrations.
Sales of petrol cars increased by 2.7 per cent in 2017, while alternatively-fuelled vehicles (including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric) saw a massive rise of 34.8 per cent. But diesel really suffered, with a 17.1 per cent drop leaving the fuel with just a 42 per cent share of the UK market.
The rise in hybrid and electric car sales is negligible, as they still only make up 4.7 per cent of new car sales – but petrol's rise saw it take 53.3 per cent of the market.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: "The decline in the new car market is concerning but it's important to remember demand remains at historically high levels.
"More than 2.5 million people drove away in a new car last year, benefitting from the latest, safest, cleanest and most fuel efficient technology."
But while the move is good news for local air quality – the reason many local authorities are penalising diesel cars – it's not great for carbon dioxide emissions. The move away from low-CO2 diesels means that, for the first time since carbon dioxide figures were pubslished over two decades ago, the UK car market's average has gone up instead of down.
A figure from the SMMT suggests that the average CO2 emissions of cars sold in 2017 will be 121.4g/km – compared to 2016's 120.1g/km.
Hawes defended the black pumps, however, saying: "Diesel is far from dead. People need to buy the right technology for their lifestyle and, in many cases, diesel still represents the best solution for customers.
"If you're driving a larger car and doing reasonable mileage you could save £300-£400 a year by choosing diesel over petrol."