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VFACTS: New car market down 11.4 per cent

Trucking along: HiLux was Australia's most popular new vehicle last month for the second time this year, beating Commodore by 82 sales.

Industry remains on track for one million sales despite fourth month of decline

6 Nov 2008

NEW car sales in Australia dropped by 11.4 per cent in October compared to the same month last year through the combined effects of economic uncertainty, the increased luxury car tax and tightening consumer finance.

It is the fourth consecutive month in which sales have dropped, following losses of 2.7 per cent in July, 12.3 per cent in September and 3.1 per cent in September.

Although year-to-date sales are now down 0.9 per cent, the market remains on course to record one million sales for the second time following last year’s breakthrough – but only just.

Official VFACTS data released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that 79,105 cars, trucks and buses were sold for the month, 10,184 fewer than in October last year.

Losses were widely felt, with the passenger car market down 13.8 per cent, SUVs down 19.1 per cent and heavy trucks down 15.9 per cent.

The only rise was in light trucks, where pick-ups, vans and even light buses defied the trend and recorded a combined rise of 7.9 per cent, suggesting a higher level in business confidence.

All passenger car segments were down in October – even small cars (down 9.8 per cent) and light cars (down 10.6 per cent), proving that the economic factors rather than high petrol prices are behind the depressed market.

Large cars took a further 19.8 per cent hit and, while this was not helped by the removal of the Mitsubishi 380 from the tally, the Toyota Aurion contributed with a 31.7 per cent drop. Although Falcon sales were up 12.6 per cent, the FG still trailed the Commodore badly (2747 for the Ford to the Holden’s 3810).

The upper large segment was decimated by the added impost of the LCT, dropping 60.4 per cent over October 2007, and there was plenty more blood spilled by smaller vehicles priced above the LCT threshold.

106 center imageTop to bottom: Lexus GS460, Renault Koleos and Saab 9-3.

Lexus sales fell a staggering 62.2 per cent while Mercedes-Benz dropped some 42.6 per cent, Alfa Romeo was down 45.7 per cent, Citroen lost 45.1 per cent, Chrysler dropped 44.3 per cent and Porsche fell by 39.6 per cent.

Saab’s fall from grace continued with 66.2 per cent drop for a total of just 26 sales for the month. To this point last year, it averaged more than 160 sales a month.

Becoming even less relevant in the Australian market is SsangYong, which sold just 31 vehicles in October – an extraordinary 87.6 per cent fewer than the same month last year and a pale figure against last year’s average of almost 200 a month.

Toyota sales were down 7.5 per cent but the T company largely bucked the overall trend by reaching 200,000 sales in record-breaking time and had the top-selling vehicle for the month in the form of the HiLux, which finished ahead of the Holden Commodore for the second time this year (having previously topped the charts in April).

Toyota’s market share for October was 23.6 per cent – once again topping the combined total of its two nearest rivals (Holden and Ford) – and it has four of the seven top-selling cars in the country (HiLux, Corolla, Yaris and Camry).

HiLux won the month by just 82 sales over Commodore (3892 to 3810), while the Toyota Corolla was not far behind on 3497 to comfortably win the small car battle from the fading Mazda3 (2103), which is in run-out mode - and remain within 1100 sales of the Commodore year-to-date.

The biggest smiles in the industry, however, will be found in the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong following trend-defying results for Nissan (up 16.9 per cent) and Renault (up 48.5 per cent).

The addition of Micra and Dualis mostly accounted for the Nissan gain, but the arrival of the new Koleos SUV accounted for only one-third of Renault’s gain, so it was a very good result for the French brand.

Audi also did well, gaining 16.5 per cent in the LCT-affected prestige market, while its rivals at BMW matched its October 2007 result.

As well as Falcon, Ford enjoyed a better month from Focus and recorded an overall increase of 4.4 per cent, while Fiat gained 54.3 per cent on the back of the new 500.

But there was precious little good news for the industry in October and FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said that, as well as the economic downturn, the market was being affected by the consumer and wholesale credit constraints.

“These figures confirm that the global financial crisis is having an impact on broader economic activity, including the new vehicle market,” said Mr McKellar.

“While it is clear that current economic uncertainties have affected consumer demand, the industry is also monitoring the impact of liquidity constraints on the availability of wholesale finance to dealers.

“The industry is working systematically to find alternative solutions to this issue in an effort to avoid the risk of further disruption to the market.

“The most recent interest rate cut was well justified and will hopefully go some way to rebuilding confidence in the marketplace.” Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief David Buttner remains typically upbeat about the market and says its dealers “are well-placed” on the finance front.

“The entire Australian new-vehicle market has been remarkably resilient during the tight economic conditions of recent months,” said Mr Buttner today.

“Total sales this year are running close to the record levels of last year and will exceed one million for only the second time on record.

“That is in stark contrast to other countries, such as the United States, where sales last month were down more than 30 per cent on the previous October.

“In Australia, we have a sharply defined division in buying sentiment with continued strong business sales on the one hand and lower consumer confidence on the other. This dichotomy between business and private consumers means we are not caught up in the brutal downturn being experienced elsewhere.”
Top 10 brands in October:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 18,705 23.6%
2 Holden 10,171 12.9%
3 Ford 8567 10.8%
4 Mazda 5529 7.0%
5 Nissan 5219 6.6%
6 Honda 5154 6.5%
7 Mitsubishi 4450 5.6%
8 Hyundai 3039 3.8%
9 Subaru 2708 3.4%
10 Suzuki 2042 2.6%

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