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News - VFACTS - Sales 2006 - March

Car market rebounds in March

Popular: Yaris was Australia's top-selling light car in March.

Light cars boom and SUV sales slide as new car sales set an all-time record in March

11 Apr 2006

THE Australian motor vehicle market shrugged off a February sales dip to rebound in March, setting a record for the month.

A total of 87,156 vehicles were sold last month – up 0.6 per cent on a previous record set in 2005, according to the latest VFACTS industry figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

First quarter sales were slightly softer than last year at 234,605 vehicles – down 2887 or 1.2 per cent over the same period last year.

"The first-quarter result is actually very good when you consider that the industry set sales records in two out the three months," said FCAI chief executive, Peter Sturrock, who remains confident the industry would reach 980,000 sales for the year.

Last year the industry set a record total of 988,269 – the fourth year in a row that sales reached record levels. However, recent volatile fuel prices and concerns over interest rate rises are emerging as great unknowns in the 2006 sales stakes.

Booming light-car sales remains the biggest trend this year. Sales were up 19.9 per cent in March and 22.3 per cent for the first quarter.

"Higher fuel prices are clearly having an influence on buying patterns but there’s more to it than simply that," said Mr Sturrock. "The new generation of comparatively safer and better-equipped light cars is attracting entry-level motorists who might previously have bought a second-hand vehicle." Light-car stars last month were the Toyota Yaris with 2079 sold, Hyundai Getz (1716), Holden Barina (1367) and Suzuki Swift (1073).

Apart from light cars, small hatches and sedans also dominate with a 20.6 per cent overall market share. Among the small-car winners last month were the Toyota Corolla with 3680 sales, Mazda3 (2901), Holden Astra (1665), Honda Civic (1659), and a surprise strong month for the Mitsubishi Lancer with 1111 sales. Even Holden’s Viva managed 974 sales.

On the flipside, the previously booming SUV market has suffered from skyrocketing fuel prices. SUV sales were down 9.0 per cent in the first quarter.

Ford’s Territory still leads medium segment with 1873 sales last month and an overall market share of 30.1 per cent this year, followed by the Toyota Prado on 22.6 per cent. Toyota sold 1099 Prados last month.

The compact SUV segment is now dominated by the Toyota RAV4 with a 20.4 per cent share this year, followed by the Subaru Forester with a 16.3 per cent share. Subaru achieved record March sales of 3607 vehicles, up 14.5 per cent over the same month last year.

Toyota sold 1507 RAVs last month with 1161 Subaru Foresters finding buyers. Honda’s CR-V, with 813 sales, remains in third spot overall with a market share of 14.3 per cent.

The trend for the medium and large-car segments was softer with medium cars below $55,000 down 8.7 per cent year-to-date and large cars below $80,000 down 17.6 per cent.

Of the Australian-built large cars, the soon-to-be-replaced Holden Commodore remains the market leader with a 40.7 per cent share, ahead of the Ford Falcon, 35.3 per cent, and Mitsubishi 380 on 8.9 per cent share, just ahead of the Toyota Camry V6 on 7.3 per cent.

"The release of new models has a positive effect on how various segments fare, and we’re hopeful that medium- and large-car sales will pick up when new product is launched in the second half of the year," said Mr Sturrock.

Light commercial vehicle (LCV) sales have been a key driver of overall market growth. LCV sales were up 12.8 per cent last month and 6.7 per cent for the first quarter.

"Commercial vehicle sales remain remarkably robust, despite evidence elsewhere of some softening in economic conditions," said Mr Sturrock.

In overall terms, Toyota was market leader in March with 18,649 sales (21%), ahead of Holden on 13,555 (16.4%) and Ford on 11,118 (12.4%).

Mazda came in fourth with 5706 sales (7.1%), followed by Mitsubishi with 5075 (5.5%), Honda on 4611 (5.5%) and Hyundai with 4554 (5.2%). Nissan (3968 sales, 4.6 %), Subaru (3607, 4.1%) and Kia (2278, 2.6%), filled out the top 10.

Significantly, only Subaru, Honda and Hyundai are the only top-10 members to have increased overall market share this year.

At the end of the first quarter Toyota leads Holden by 10,842 vehicles.

Of the brands, Toyota’s Commonwealth Games support with vehicles provided a fillip for sales. Apart from the Corolla’s success, Toyota sold 2079 Yaris sedans and hatches. The HiLux 4x4 enjoyed its best-ever sales month with 1912 sold, while HiLux 4x2 managed 1444.

Over at Ford, the Fiesta managed 517 sales, Focus 1311 with other models like the Courier 4x2 LCV range and Falcon ute, standouts for the month with 414 Couriers sold, an increase of 44 per cent over last year while 1525 utes found buyers.

FPV also continued its best ever start to the year with its third consecutive month of record sales with 219 vehicles sold last month. Its March result comes on the back of record results for January and February, as well as taking FPV’s first quarter total to 556 vehicles, up 45 per cent compared to the first quarter last year.

Up-and-comer Chrysler-Jeep continues to post solid results. The 300C has helped lift sales to an eight-year high – a total of 159 300Cs delivered last month was its the best performance since the car’s first full month on sale last November. The company sold 766 vehicles last month, the highest combined monthly sales since October 1997.

Combined Chrysler and Jeep monthly sales were up 26 per cent over the same period last year lifting year-to-date sales to 2050, a 12 per cent increase over 2005.

Price cuts and more aggressive marketing helped Saab improve. The recent price-realignment of the 9-3 helped the Swedes managed 173 sales last month, taking its first quarter result to 455 vehicles, up more than 35 per cent on the same time last year.

Of the dominant Germans, Mercedes-Benz sold 1134 vehicles last month, BMW 1000 and Audi 453. Mercedes-Benz has delivered 25 per cent more cars to customers than last year, with year-to-date sales coming in at 3542 units. The new A-class, B-class, M-class and S-class are driving sales.

TOP 10 BRANDS – FIRST QUARTER 2006

Brand Sales Share %
1 Toyota 49,205 21.0
2 Holden 38,363 16.4
3 Ford 28,979 12.4
4 Mazda 16,571 7.1
5 Mitsu 12,997 5.5
6 Honda 12,846 5.5
7 Hyundai 12,108 5.2
8 Nissan 11,996 5.1
9 Subaru 9478 4.0
10 Kia 5421 2.3

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