New car registrations fell for the fifth consecutive month, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have revealed.

The overall new car market declined by 6.4% last month compared with figures from August 2016, with the fleet market weathering the storm the best. Fleet registrations fell by 3.2% during the month to 41,899 units, while demand from private car buyers subsided by 9.9% and business registrations plummeted by 14.1%.

In total, 76,433 new cars were registered last month, which the SMMT said made it the third best August performance in the last ten years.

In the first eight months of the year, 1,640,241 cars have been registered in the UK – a decline of 2.4% compared with the same period in 2016. So far, 859,713 of those cars have gone to fleets, a marginal decline from the 859,948 units in the first eight months of last year.

In August, more people than ever before chose to get behind the wheel of an alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV), accounting for a 5.2% market share. Compared with last August, demand is up by 58.6%.

Demand for diesel-powered cars declined once again during the month, with registrations falling by 21.3%, as continued bad press appears to be making people think twice about their choice of fuel.

The newly launched Volkswagen Golf topped the sales charts during the month on 2,279 units. This was followed by  long-standing best-seller the Ford Fiesta (2,236) and the Vauxhall Mokka X on 2,063 cars.

“August is typically a quiet month for the new car market as consumers and businesses delay purchases until the arrival of the new number plate in September,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “With the new 67-plate now available and a range of new models in showrooms, we anticipate the continuation of what are historically high levels of demand.”

Chris Bosworth, director of strategy at Close Brothers Motor Finance, said: “This month marks the fifth consecutive fall in new car registrations, an expected result as car buyers wait for the new registration plates. August is a notoriously testing month for new car registrations as consumers divert their spending toward family activities and holidays, so these figures shouldn’t come as a complete shock to the industry.”

Andy Hartley, commercial director at Lex Autolease, said: “Given the uncertainty over Brexit and the impact on consumer confidence, it is unsurprising to see that August registration volumes have fallen compared to 2016. It will be interesting to see what actions manufacturers and retailers take during the important September plate change month to attempt to recover some sales momentum.”