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Market Insight: Battle of the brands continues

Top two: HiLux and Corolla take the podium for Aussie sales in June.

Plenty of work for individual car brands in second half of year, despite market boom


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5 Jul 2013

AUSTRALIA'S motor vehicle industry is hurtling toward another record-breaking result for new-vehicle sales – and the fierce battle being waged among the big-volume mainstream brands is sure to keep new registrations on the rev limiter in the second half.

Toyota’s domination remains plain for all to see, having cracked the 100,000 mark (106,110) with twice as many sales as its nearest rival, Mazda, and for the first time in its history in Australia it has the two top-selling vehicles on the market, Corolla (20,970) and HiLux (20,721).

It also leads no fewer than eight market segments.

However, the market leader will also be mindful that its first-half result puts it just 0.1 per cent ahead of its position at this time last year, and that its overall share has actually fallen from 19.4 per cent at this point in 2012 to 18.5 per cent.

This is the wrong direction for a company that is intent on securing a 25 per cent market share in this country, and Toyota will now be working on stronger sales growth in the second half to improve on last year’s 218,176 units and 19.6 per cent share.

While Mazda looks increasingly likely to end its two-year run with Australia’s top model (the Mazda3), the leading full-import brand has maintained a high running rate overall to be in front of Holden and in second place on the Australian market so far this year.

Like Toyota, both Mazda and Holden have dropped market share – Mazda holds 9.1 YTD (down from 9.5) and Holden 9.0 (down from 10.3) – but the Japanese brand is in a strong position after racking up 52,287 new registrations (up 0.3 per cent) compared to Holden’s 51,547, which is down 8.3 per cent on 2012.

A lead of 740 units is not much with six months of high-budget, hard-fought trading still to come, but the prospect of maintaining its lead against the mighty Australian manufacturer will be a confidence boost for the full-line importer.

For Holden, the half-year report card is concerning, with its two biggest sellers – the locally built Commodore and Cruze – down 35.1 and 23.9 per cent respectively YTD (10,301/12,503), even with substantially improved models.

Yes, the VF Commodore is still fresh, and transport delays reportedly kept sales down last month, but the extent to which the large car improves on its predicament in the months ahead is still to be determined.

Not that far behind, three brands – all with aspirations of 10 per cent market share – are separated by less than 4000 units, with Ford wedged in between Hyundai and Nissan.

The South Korean brand is up 5.9 per cent YTD (47,979) to be clearly in fourth and commanding 8.4 per cent of the market – up from 8.3 this time last year – while the Japanese brand has climbed 10.5 per cent (44,065) to be in sixth place for now, just 439 units in arrears of Ford.

Nissan also now holds 7.7 per cent of the market – well below the expectations set by previous management but nonetheless up from 7.3 at this point last year and heading in the right direction on the back of Pulsar, Dualis and the ever-strong Navara.

Now preparing to become a full-import brand from 2016, Ford continues to rely on overseas-sourced models for sales growth, its 44,504 units YTD reflecting a 2.5 per cent increase on the same period last year. Its market share is 7.8 per cent, down from 7.9 a year ago.

The locally built Falcon sedan and ute and Territory SUV have fallen 25.9, 15.8 and 2.4 per cent respectively this year, with the Focus small car and Ranger workhorse by far Ford’s biggest-selling models at just over 10,000 apiece YTD – twice as many as the Falcon sedan (5070).

Having restructured its operations over the past 12 months to shake, once and for all, the remnants of its former life as an Australian manufacturer, Mitsubishi is building momentum and, like most other full-import brands, is targeting an optimistic 100,000 sales within the next few years in the circa-1.1-million-unit new-vehicle market.

The triple-diamond Japanese brand has managed 37,329 first-half sales, which marks an impressive 19.9 per cent increase over last year and, with incremental volume from Mirage and improved sales from Outlander and Triton 4x4, brings with it a 6.5 per cent market share – up from 5.7 12 months earlier.

Mitsubishi’s stated target is 70,000 for 2013, with an eight per cent share of the market – or more than 80,000 units – the goal soon after.

As industry and individual brand records were recorded far and wide last month, Volkswagen’s fall of 19.0 per cent in the wake of safety issues involving several models has left it with 27,654 sales YTD, up 2.6 per cent on the first half of 2012.

This is enough for a 4.8 per cent slice of market, but is down from 4.9 per cent at the same point last year. The company clearly needs to regain consumer confidence and turn around the sales performance of its passenger cars, particularly the volume-selling (and now new-generation) Golf, which is down 19.4 per cent this year after taking a 55.8 per cent hit last month.

Honda, on the other hand, has recorded the biggest sales increase of any top-10 brand in the first half, up 45.0 per cent with 23,429 units and well on its way to achieving its 45,000 sales target.

Honda’s market share has similarly skyrocketed, moving from 2.9 per cent at this point last year to 4.1 per cent 2013 YTD as familiar nameplates such as CR-V, Civic and Accord return to form.

Subaru remains among the top 10 brands despite a 2.9 per cent fall in sales this year, recording 20,713 units YTD. Its market share has fallen 0.3 per cent to 3.6.

Kia, which has looked like becoming as a permanent member in the top 10 table, has also slipped this year, down 3.4 per cent with 15,270 new registrations and a 2.7 per cent market share.

This time last year, the Korean brand held a 2.9 per cent share and its sales were up 23.2 per cent to be past 15,800 units. It finished 2012 with more than 30,000 sales, making it one of the fastest-growing brands on the market, and earlier this year the company revealed a target of five per cent market share over the next few years.

Optimism is high in the current buoyant market, but it will be a tough assignment for Kia and other brands to reach their ambitious goals.

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