Media coverage of the health concerns about diesel emissions is putting consumers off the idea of buying a diesel model, according to a survey by Carbuyer.co.uk.
More than 1,100 people responded to the survey, with 61% saying they had been put off buying a diesel car. A third of respondents (33%) said their views on diesel vehicles had been unaffected by negative stories, while 6% weren't aware of any news.
The findings are in line with figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which show a 9.2% fall in diesel sales in February 2017 compared with February 2016. Sales of alternative-fuel models such as hybrids and pure electric vehicles were up 48.9%.
Carbuyer noted, however, that the extra fuel efficiency offered by diesel engines means they are likely to remain firm favourites for long-distance drivers and company car customers for the foreseeable future.
Stuart Milne, editor of Carbuyer, said: "Our poll and the SMMT's sales data both suggest diesel's unpopularity could well grow in the coming months.
"While diesel can still be a cost-effective choice for high-mileage motorists and those running larger cars, we regularly advise buyers that modern petrol, hybrid and plug-in vehicles can be a better option for shorter trips and urban motoring in particular."
Diesel cars currently make up just under 50% of the new car market, compared with around 10% in the nineties. Their popularity increased thanks to tax incentives and a perception that diesel cars -- which have lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -- were greener than petrol.
However, in recent years it has become clear that diesel engines are more polluting than their petrol counterparts in other ways, emitting relatively high levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. Diesel exhaust fumes are now recognised as posing a significant threat to human health, linked to conditions ranging from cancer and heart problems to lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
Besides health concerns, consumers may also be put off buying diesel because of new congestion and parking charges proposed for diesel models, and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's proposed diesel scrappage scheme.