Despite the downturn, diesel registrations still increased by 10% to take a 44.9% of the market, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturer’s and Traders.
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, said: “We expect a modest fall in registrations this year, and a 2.1% dip in January is in line with expectations.
“Fuel efficiency is a high priority for customers and it is encouraging to see that nearly half of the market is diesel. The 4x4 and MPV segments saw an increase in volumes over January 2007, and are segment leaders in reducing tailpipe CO2, with drops of 20 and 24% respectively between 1997 and 2007.”
The SMMT revised its forecasts for total registrations in 2008 to 2.345 million units, down 2.5% over 2007.
The top 10 sellers accounted for a third of January's sales with the Ford Focus setting a firm hold on the top slot and confirming its nine year run at the top.
Ford and Vauxhall remain the UK's top selling marques, while Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Nissan all recorded significant growth.
Volkswagen's Golf was the best selling diesel, just ahead the Ford Focus.
Sue Robinson, Director of the RMI’s national franchised dealers association (NFDA), part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF), said: "January’s car sales dip masked growth in a number of niche segments, but for sales to rise through 2008 interest rates must be reduced.
"Consumers have suffered economic uncertainty and rising household costs during the last year. The Bank of England must reduce interest rates to help promote growth."
UK new car registrations
Registrations by sales type
Top 10 best sellers