Figures released by the SMMT show that the August new car market in the UK fell 2.3 per cent on the same month of last year to 83,066 units. Cumulative sales in the year so far to the end of August dropped 5.7 per cent on last year to 1,554,828 units.

“In a weaker August new car market, diesel continued to star,” commented SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan.

“As fuel prices soar, buyers are really switching on to its benefits and last month marked almost five consecutive years of diesel growth. Cheaper motoring and greater model choice are just two of its selling points; better fuel consumption is also helping to lower average carbon dioxide emissions from the tailpipe.”

SMMT forecasts around 420,000 new cars will be registered in September 2005, down around 2.5 per cent on last year.

Over the first eight months of 2005, the total market fell 5.7 per cent, mainly as a result of a 10 per cent drop in private retail volumes. SMMT said that the effects of the recent interest rate cut will not be seen for some time and added that rising fuel prices may offset any potential boost to consumer confidence. 

However, diesel car sales continue to surge. The diesel market posted its 59th successive monthly increase in August. An increase of 10.7 per cent was well up on previous monthly gains this year. Diesel penetration rose by 4.3 per cent last month to 36.3 per cent of the market, hitting 35 per cent over the year-to-date.

Ford’s Mondeo remains the top-selling diesel model over the year-to-date, although closely followed by the Focus and Golf.