February UK new car registrations fell 1.4% to 75,996 units while year-to-date registrations were down 9.7% year on year at 233,359 units.

Diesel cars' share of the market continues to climb, taking 38% of February's tally.

"So far this year the market has suffered from two things; firstly a surge in demand for diesel cars distorting the market at the end of 2005 and secondly weaker consumer confidence," said SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan.

"However, we believe March will present a more accurate barometer of performance for the year. While times are still tough, the [registration] plate-change is shifting the car market spike from September to March. Competitive deals like 0% finance and free insurance should also help drive customers to showrooms throughout March."

Private buyers accounted for 34.9% of registrations in February and 38.5% year to date.

Commerical vehicle registrations fell 6% to 18,137 in February. YTD sales were off 4.1% to 43,683.