London – UK registrations fell 6.3% to 163,615 in January as weaker consumer confidence and uncertainty over the future of diesel drove a tenth consecutive month of decline in the market.
Sales of diesel cars fell 26% to 58,703, giving diesels a market share of 35.9%, down from 37.8% in December.
Registrations of gasoline cars rose 8.5% to 95,892, giving them a market share of 58.6%, up from 56.6% in December, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) published on Monday.
Demand fell 30% among business customers, 1.8% for fleet buyers and 9.5% from private customers, the SMMT said.
In 2017, UK sales recorded their biggest drop in eight years, falling 5.7% to 2.54 million, due to uncertainty over potential new diesel charges and weakening consumer confidence since the Brexit vote, the SMMT has said.
But demand was robust at the beginning of last year as customers brought forward purchases to beat a vehicle tax hike which came into force in April, making it likely there would be large comparative drops in the first few months of 2018.
The Ford Fiesta was the UK's best-selling car in January, pushing December's winner, the Volkswagen Golf, into second place. The Ford Focus was No. 3.
Fiat's UK sales plunged 47% last month, making it the biggest loser among major mass-market brands. Nissan's volume fell 30%, while Ford sales dropped 14% and PSA Group's newly acquired Vauxhall brand fell 9%.
Other losers included Peugeot, whose registrations fell 11%, and Renault, whose sales slipped 7%. VW brand sales dropped 3%.
Among premium brands, Mercedes-Benz sales decreased 9%, while Audi volume slipped 1.1% and BMW registrations grew 6%.
Other gainers included Mini, whose registrations rose 26%, Toyota, where sales were up 7% and Land Rover, whose volume grew by 4.2%.
The UK's decline contrasted with sales rises in other big European markets last month. Sales in France rose 2.5%, while in Spain they were up 20%. Sales in Italy gained 3.4%.
Reuters contributed to this report