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The number of new cars sold in Britain grew 1.2% year-on-year to just under 164,000 in July, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The ongoing steep fall in diesel sales, down 24.4% to 52,303, was more than offset by a 20% jump in petrol vehicle sales, which hit 100,000.

Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFV) also recorded significant 21% growth, with 10,700 vehicles sold during the month. Plug-in hybrids saw the biggest rise in sales, up 33.5%.

The numbers brought diesel’s market share for the year-to-date to under 33%, from over 43% in 2017. Petrol, meanwhile, grew to hold 61.8% of the market.

In terms of customer base, the number of vehicles sold to private buyers stood flat at 67,000 year-on-year, while fleet vehicles grew 2.6% to 91,542.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, attributed market resilience in July to a “feel-good factor” from good weather and England’s performance in the World Cup.

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By GlobalData

“It’s great to see alternatively fuelled vehicles benefiting from this growth, and government’s acknowledgement of the vital role new-tech diesel will play in its Road to Zero strategy should help more even more motorists benefit from the latest, safest and low emission technology over the coming months,” he added.

Sure Robinson, director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) said: “With the introduction of Worldwide Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) in September, we expect a strong month for new and nearly new sales vehicle sales in August as consumers, will have the opportunity to find good deals in the sector.

“New, compliant diesel cars will remain an appealing choice for new car buyers who regularly drive long distances … We now look forward to a stronger than usual performance next month.”

Ian Plummer, manufacturer and agency director at Auto Trader, said: “Several manufacturers were selling a large proportion of their July volume on the last day of the month as the pressure to meet monthly targets and the impact of new WLTP regulations combined to give motorists some real bargains.

“Premium brands were better able to weather current market conditions than the volume players who are feeling the impact of lower exchange rates and weaker residual values.

“Some smaller but well positioned brands like Suzuki and SEAT are bucking the trend on the back of refreshed product line-ups, as well as consumer incentives that are both simple and attractive.”