It’s a case of being in the wrong gear as car sales have declined by 8.5% overall compared to 2016. The figures were released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and show big drops in both the number of private cars being bought, as well as fleet cars.

Looking more closely under the bonnet, the figures – that compare May 2017 to May 2016 – also show that diesels have fared the worst. Which perhaps isn’t surprising with suggestions of a ‘toxin tax’ being imposed on cars using the fuel and with the introduction of clean air zones in some cities. But the figures are staggering as diesels are down a massive 20%; in contrast, petrol cars saw a 0.4% increase in sales and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) saw a boost of 46.7%.

The year to date numbers illustrate a similar tale with diesels down 8.8%, petrol up 5.8% and AFVs up 27.2%, although car sales for AFVs such as hybrids and electric are still modest in comparison to traditional fuels. So far in 2017, more than 600,000 new petrol cars have been registered compared to 509,817 diesels and 47,936 AFVs.

So, what’s put sales figures into reverse? According to the SMMT, it’s a combination of factors – namely people were waiting for the General Election to happen before making big car buying decisions as well as the changes in vehicle excise duty (VED – or car tax to most of us).

However, the SMMT is keen to make it clear that the car industry isn’t quite doomed for the scrap heap – cars are still being sold in high volumes and this is just a blip. So far, 1,158,357 cars have been sold in 2017, which is only down 0.6% on this time last year. Experts also point to the fact that even more sophisticated technology will be launched this summer that should shore up sales over the course of the year. Of course – that’s probably not true for poor old ‘dirty diesel’ as more and more people choose to shun it in favour of petrol and smug fuel – ahem, alternative fuels.