New-car registrations in the UK fell by a lower-than-expected 7.7% in February to 63,424, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.
With many buyers waiting for the arrival of new number plates in March, the automotive and car insurance sectors are usually braced for subdued sales in February.
Although the figures were down for the eighth month in a row, the SMMT explained they are relative to a period last year when the Government's car scrappage scheme was driving up sales.
Nearly a fifth of the sales in February 2010 were under the "cash-for-bangers" scheme and the latest decline was the smallest in the past eight months, the group said.
Combined sales for January and February 2011 stand 10% lower than the figures for the same period last year. The SMMT believes sales will decline by an average of 8.3% in the first half of the year before improving over the next six-month period.
Sales of minis and superminis, which were particularly boosted by the scrappage scheme, fell last month, but executive cars, luxury saloons, sports cars and MPVs all did well in February 2011.
Demand for diesel cars rose 8.9%, with diesel taking a more than 50% share of the market.
These were the 10 top best-selling cars in February 2011:
1. Volkswagen Golf
2. Vauxhall Corsa
3. Ford Focus
4. Ford Fiesta
5. Vauxhall Astra
6. Vauxhall Insignia
7. Vauxhall Zafira
© Press Association 2011