Has the Chelsea tractor had its day? Quite possibly, according to new figures released today that show a dip in 4x4 sales for the first time ever.

Following years of condemnation from green politicians and ecological lobby groups, as well as tax hikes and the rising cost of petrol, only 105,196 new off-road vehicle were sold in the first seven months

This year, compared with 106,732 for the same period in 2005.

A modest drop, to say the least, but one that will give succor to anti-4x4 protesters and their continuing campaign against vehicles they perceive to be causing excessive damage to the environment.

Ken Hurst of The Manufacturer Magazine told Press Associated: "Sales have been constantly rising for years and this is the first dip that has been encountered. Obviously petrol prices have gone up and it could be that some off-roader owners have been put off by talk of large rises in vehicle excise duty for 4x4s".

"Also, it may be that 4x4s are going out of fashion. Possibly children who once saw the vehicles as status symbols now feel ashamed when they are dropped off at the school gates."

Ten years ago, 78,000 new 4x4s were sold in the UK; by 2005 Brits snaffled up 187,000 of the beasts. However, sales of 4x4s in America have slumped by a quarter in the last year, prompting General Motors to announce a dip in sport utility vehicles production.

Off-road vehicles are often singled out as being of particular harm to the environment and congestion, despite the fact that many standard saloons produce significantly higher emissions and occupy more physical space on the road.