New car registrations in the UK fell by 8.5% in May compared with the same month last year. A total of 186,265 cars were registered, compared with 203,585 in May 2016.
The hardest-hit segment of the industry is diesels, which following a downward trend across the year-to-date have dived by 20% compared with May of last year. Just 81,489 were registered compared with more than 101,000 during the same month last year. This makes diesels' market share 43.7%, compared with petrol cars' 51.8%.
Petrol cars, on the other hand, remain buoyant, with 0.4% growth in the same time period.
Some of diesel’s losses were mopped up by alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) - hybrids, EVs hydrogen cars - which grew by 46.7%, to 8258 registries and 4.4% of the total market. This share is the highest the segment has ever taken.
Across the year, compared with the same period of 2016, total registrations are still down by 0.6%; 6,500 fewer cars have been registered so far. Diesel and private segments make up the hardest hit across this period, with 8.8% and 4.2% downturns respectively.
The Ford Fiesta remains the UK’s best-selling car, and was May’s best-seller after Mercedes-Benz’s dominance in April, while the Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai were the second and third best-sellers of May.
Shaun Armstrong, managing director of car finance provider Creditplus, said: "May figures could well mark the beginning of the end for diesel vehicles, with new registrations down 20,000 last month - it's hard to see how diesel can recover from what feels like a mortal blow.
“There is so much negative press around diesel at the moment - with proposals to introduce a toxin tax and the Government plans to launch a car scrappage scheme - that it's difficult to see anyone choosing diesel over petrol and AFVs right now."