New car sales fell for the first time in six years in 2017, led by demand for diesel vehicles dropping by 17.1%.
That’s according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which says about 2.5 million cars were registered, down 5.7% from 2016.
It suggests the introduction of new levies and fears about air pollution knocked consumer confidence regarding diesels.
The group believes the shift away from diesels to petrol engines caused carbon dioxide emissions from new cars to increase for the first time in two decades, rising 0.8% higher than in 2016.
Chief Executive of the SMMT, Mike Hawes, said low emission diesels were “vital” in meeting climate change targets, despite producing the majority of harmful nitrogen oxide gases from transport.
He said he expected car sales to continue to drop this year, predicting a 5% to 7% fall.
The UK is expected to have around 200,000 electric vehicles on its roads by the end of 2018.