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As lowering fuel costs becomes increasingly important for British motorists, car parts for diesel vehicles could see a surge in demand.

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), sales of diesel vehicles and those that run on alternative fuels are on the rise thanks to the extra efficiency they provide.

In January, there was a six per cent rise in the number of diesel cars sold, increasing market share to 53.7 per cent, up from 50.7 per cent a year ago.

Sales of alternative fuelled cars, such as those that run on electricity or biofuels, rose by 16.4 per cent last month, and now have a 1.6 per cent share of the market.

The cost of fuel has rocketed in the UK over the last year but while diesel cars in the past have had a reputation for poor performance in comparison to vehicles that run on petrol, modern technological developments have helped to erase this image.

A move towards more fuel efficient cars was also apparent in the list of top-selling models for the month.

Overall, the Ford Fiesta was the best seller of January 2012, while four of the most popular cars over the month were superminis.

Indeed, the supermini category saw higher sales growth than any other type of vehicle over the month.

Meanwhile, according to Paul Everitt, chief executive of the SMMT, 2012 is "set to be an exciting year" for the car market, thanks to a record number of new models being released as well as a range of new technology "that will save the motorist fuel, enhance comfort and further increase levels of safety and security".

It follows a recent survey by Hastings Direct which found that 20 per cent of motorists said they would totally give up driving if fuel costs rose above £2 per litre.