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Market Insight: Aussies rush to hot German cars
Sportscars wane but hi-po hatches, sedans and even SUVs find booming sales
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12 Mar 2021
By NEIL DOWLING
“THERE’S no substitute for cubic inches” wrote Sports Car Illustrated in a February 1957 article that championed the replacement of a pedestrian engine with a fat V8.
The concept is hardly new, but mass production of the car spread the audience and it became something that many American motorists took to with relish, particularly in the era of the magazine article.
Times change and substitutes – in the form of electronic control of the engine, improved combustion dynamics and especially the domestication of performance aids such as superchargers and turbochargers – have developed that tear down the 1957 pronouncement.
What hasn’t changed is the feverish search by a sizable consumer element for more performance levels and the response by car-makers to serve up this wish.
Of interest is that it’s not the traditional sportscar sector that is being targeted to performance-hungry motorists.
Increasingly, the sedan, hatch and now SUV segments have performance variants. No better reflection of this trend is seen than in four German manufacturers – Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
Volkswagen in 2020 sold 2460 of its top-spec Golf R variants, out of a total Golf pool of 10,012 units – a solid 25 per cent of total Golf sales and a percentage that Volkswagen Group Australia PR and brand experience manager Kurt McGuiness says is rising.
“Our performance variants have always proved popular with Australian buyers and in some cases, such as the Golf GTI-powered Tiguan R-Line, they are among the best-selling within a range,” he said.
“Last year alone, Australia ranked second numerically for global R car sales, which is quite an achievement given we only offered the Golf R model in Australia, which for the better part of the year, was also in run-out.
“It says a lot for how popular the Golf R Final Edition model has been.”
The sports variant of the Golf is the only Volkswagen product to wear the badge but Mr McGuiness said VGA sees “a lot of potential for R brand in Australia”.
“Our plan is to introduce more R models next year, with the return of the Golf R in new Mk8 guise, as well as the Tiguan R and T-Roc R in the fold for starters,” he said.
“What we know from the success of Golf R is that our buyers in this category are diverse demographically, but typically they are attracted to the range because of premium features like the latest tech and luxury appointments, in addition of course to the performance capabilities.”
Volkswagen isn’t alone when it comes to Australians wanting more performance.
Mercedes-Benz said that Australia has the world’s highest sales of its AMG sub-brand on a per-capita basis.
Mercedes-Benz Cars Australia head of media relations Jerry Stamoulis told GoAutoNews that in 2020, Australia was number one per capita and fifth globally in terms of volume.
“In 2020, AMG was 20 per cent of our total Mercedes-Benz Cars volume,” he said.
“And it’s growing. In this year’s sales to date, the results show that percentage has jumped to 26 per cent.”
Sales of the AMG brand were about 5900 in 2020. Mercedes-Benz has 20 models from AMG, opening with the A35 and through the GLA/GLB/GLC/GLE and GLS SUVs to the AMG GT.
These are AMG products and not the AMG accessory lines that are also available on most models.
The brand sold 29,455 units (excluding utes and vans) in 2020. In the first two months of this year, it has 5258 sales, a rise of 16 per cent on the same time in 2020.
BMW has 22 models wearing the M badge, from the M2 to the M8 and the X2 M35i to the X7 M50i. It sold 4659 M variants in 2020, representing 19.9 per cent of the brand’s total 23,520 units that found buyers in 2020.
Audi will launch its SQ2 performance SUV in May, becoming the sixth sports variant of the brand’s existing SUV line up.
Audi has 19 variants with the “S” or “RS” logo that starts with the S3 and RS4, through to the S8 in passenger cars, and the RSQ3 up to the Q8 RS in SUVs. It also has the R8 and TT S/TT RS coupes.
Audi Australia corporate communications manager Shaun Cleary said S and RS sales represented about 20 per cent of the total Audi sales in 2020, which was one of the highest on record.
Similar to the other Germans, Australia’s uptake of the performance models from Audi ranks very high in global terms.
Audi sold 15,868 units in 2020, indicating the S and RS badges found about 3300 owners.
Mr Cleary said the addition of the SQ2 to the Australian range is indicative of the local demand for hi-performance, premium models.
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