United Kingdom diesel vehicle sales fall by almost a third in October

In total, new vehicle registrations - a proxy for sales - fell to 158,192 in October, the SMMT reported.

He said consumers needed "urgent reassurance" that the latest, low emission diesel cars would not face any bans, charges or restrictions.

Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new vehicle market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel.

Registrations of new diesel cars slumped by 29.9% in October 2017, falling at a much faster rate than the overall market, itself down by 12.2%.

While the market remains at a very high level, the recent decline in business confidence, caused by economic and political uncertainty, is now having an impact on van registrations.

Demand for electric and hybrid cars continued to rise, up by almost 37% to 8,244, while petrol models posted a small increase of 2.7%. Meanwhile, dealers reported -10.1% fewer private buyers taking delivery of new cars in the month.

The SMMT blamed a drop in business and consumer confidence for the fall. The SMMT forecast that the market would end the year at 2.56m vehicles - a 4.7% decline, with a further decline of 5.4% next year.

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"Declining business and consumer confidence is undoubtedly affecting demand in the new auto market but this is being compounded by confusion over government policy on diesel", said Mike Hawes, the SMMT's chief executive. According to the data, alternatively fuelled vehicle registrations were up 36.9% compared to 2016, with 8,244 cars having been registered during the month.

For diesel the fall was even more marked, the 62,349 cars registered down 30%, or nearly a third, on the same month in 2016.

Alex Buttle, from auto buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk, said: "Diesel's market share is plummeting and consumers aren't listening to rhetoric about cleaner diesel models, however much the industry drums on about it".

"Maybe it's time focus is shifted towards giving attractive tax incentives for purchasing alternative fuel vehicles to encourage growth in this area".

Overall, fewer new cars are being registered.

"This is being compounded by confusion over Government policy on diesel", he said.

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