The UK new car market declined by 4.1% in April according to data released by the SMMT.

Some 161,064 new cars were registered in Britain during April, with private registrations down by 10.3% while fleet demand remained steady, up 2.9%.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles were up 12.7% in April, but zero emission-capable plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) fell back by 34.4% and 20.4% year-to-date – evidence, the SMMT said,  of the 'consequences of prematurely removing upfront purchase incentives before the market is ready'.

The SMMT also noted that manufacturers are investing heavily to bring ultra-low and zero emission cars to market, with some 40 plug-in models now available in showrooms, and over 20 more expected to arrive in 2019. However, the SMMT also warned that 'if this still emerging sector is to reach meaningful levels, measures and incentives that build business and consumer confidence will be vital'.

Declines were recorded across most vehicle segments, with registrations of popular supermini and small family cars falling most significantly, down 14.1% and 10.6%. Demand for lower volume luxury saloons and sports cars rose while the 'dual purpose' segment also grew, by 18.4% to 40,580 units. These vehicles are now the third most popular body type, with registrations tripling since 2012.

Diesel registrations fell again, but the pace of decline slowed significantly, down 9.4%. Petrol demand also dropped, by 3.0%.

Petrol electric hybrids remained the most popular choice, up 31.1% to 6,810 units. Battery electric cars also recorded a strong uplift, from 929 to 1,517 units, which still only represents 0.9% of the market.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, "While it's great to see buyers respond to the growing range of pure electric cars on offer, they still only represent a tiny fraction of the market and are just one of a number of technologies that will help us on the road to zero. Industry is working hard to deliver on this shared ambition, providing ever cleaner cars to suit every need. We need policies that help get the latest, cleanest vehicles on the road more quickly and support market transition for all drivers. This includes investment in infrastructure and long term incentives to make new technologies as affordable as possible."