The British new car market showed stability in February, rising 1.4% year-on-year to 81,969 vehicles registered for the month.

Diesel continued its decline in sales. With a 14.3% year-on-year drop to 24,284 vehicles, its market share is now only 29.6%. The registrations of petrol vehicles rose 8.3% year-on year, to 53, 164 vehicles.

According to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles continued to surge, up 34.0% and marking the 22nd consecutive month of growth for the segment. Registrations of zero-emission electric cars enjoyed particular growth, more than doubling to 731 units, although they still accounted for less than 1% of the market (0.9%).

In the four months since the October 2018 government reductions in the Plug-in Car Grant, the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) has only grown by 1.7%, compared with 29.5% over the first 10 months of 2018. There are around 40 plug-in models on the market in the UK, with more than 20 more expected to arrive in showrooms in 2019.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “It’s encouraging to see market growth in February, albeit marginal, especially for electrified models. Car makers have made huge commitments to bring to market an ever-increasing range of exciting zero and ultra low emission vehicles and give buyers greater choice.

“These cars still only account for a fraction of the overall market, however, so if the UK is to achieve its electrification ambitions, a world-class package of incentives and infrastructure is needed. The recent removal of the plug-in car grant from plug-in hybrids was a backward step and sends entirely the wrong message. Supportive, not punitive measures are needed, else ambitions will never be realised.”

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By GlobalData

February is regarded as one of the quietest months for new car registrations, due to both being the shortest month in the calendar and the impending plate change in March.

The two bestselling models for the year to date are the Ford Fiesta and the Ford Mondeo, with 15,732 of the vehicles sold collectively in 2019.