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August VFACTS: SUVs drive market 12 per cent higher

Still on top: Holden’s Commodore remained Australia’s favourite vehicle in August with a 10.2 per cent sales lift on the eve of the VE Series II launch.

Private buyers and SUVs continue to drive this year’s new-vehicle market

3 Sep 2010

NEW-CAR buyers shrugged off the distractions of a federal election in August, pushing the market up 12.1 per cent as they continued to snap up sport utility vehicles (SUVs) at a rapid rate.

The result was a good one given that history suggests an election always results in people putting major purchases on hold. Not this time.

And, while government purchases were up, the much larger private buyer sector was the real driving force, coming in more than 20 per cent ahead of August, 2009.

Hyundai was the principal mover among the car-makers thanks to its prolific new model release program this year, jumping up into fourth place past Mazda. It beat the Japanese marque by 27 units with a total of 6560 units, only a month after Mazda fell just one unit short of tipping Ford out of third place.

The win puts Hyundai less than 1300 units behind Mazda for the year to date and sets up a fascinating race for fourth place to the December finish line.

Total registrations for the month rose to 82,122 units, up 12.1 per cent, lifting the year to date total to 695,666 cars and trucks, a gain of 15.2 per cent.

Heavy demand for SUVs underpinned the strong August result as tradies – benefitting from the economic stimulus package - continued to drive strong growth in light commercial vehicles, according to the VFACTS registration figures compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

“This is a strong August result with sales of SUVs showing a particularly healthy increase,” FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“There is no evidence in the August data to suggest customers were distracted from their normal buying habits due to the election and the current political uncertainty,” he said.

A lot of the action was in the SUV market, which continued to expand its share of the market, growing faster than the passenger segment, especially the small car segment, which fell faster than both the medium and large car segments.

SUV sales were up 32.5 per cent for the month, with the compact segment racing ahead 39.3 per cent thanks to the introduction of several new models in recent months.

The principal new addition was the Hyundai ix35, which took fourth place in the compact market with 738 sales (nil 12 months ago) behind the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-7, which missed out on third place by just nine units.

The Forester’s performance was a standout, the model strengthening its position as Subaru’s best seller with a 47 per cent jump in August sales, thanks in part to the recent addition of a diesel variant to the range.

The Forester was also the best selling vehicle of any kind in Tasmania – 82 for the month – and lifted Subaru’s Tasmanian market share to 11.2 per cent, almost three times its national share of 4.0 per cent.

106 center imageLeft, from top: Subaru Forester, Toyota Corolla, Toyota HiLux and Mazda3.Another compact SUV not on the market a year ago was the Mitsubishi ASX, a slightly shorter sister to the Outlander. The ASX achieved 254 sales and, while the Outlander volume was down, the cumulative total showed a net gain in numbers, but not sufficient to maintain Mitsubishi’s share of the compact SUV market.

Another recent newcomer was the keenly priced Great Wall X240, which racked up 307 registrations in August, almost half of Great Wall’s sales for the month.

In the medium SUV sector, a 30 per cent gain kept Holden’s Captiva in the lead ahead of Toyota’s Prado (up 18 per cent) and Ford’s Territory (up 22 per cent).

Demand for SUVs was such that even the large and luxury categories comfortably outperformed the market, rising 15.5 and 33.4 per cent for the month. In the large category, the LandCruiser wagon was up 37 per cent.

In the luxury segment, BMW’s X5 remained in top spot with 345 units, a 14 per cent gain, but its new sibling, the “downmarket” X1 released in May is already safely ensconced in second place with 283 sales.

However it appears this has been achieved partly at the expanse of the aged X3, which was down 78 per cent for the month to 20 units.

The rapid growth in SUVs and light commercials has seen the passenger car market underperform with a slight gain of 3.5 per cent for the month. Passenger cars now represent 56.6 per cent of the market (down from 61.3 per cent a year ago), but the mix within passenger cars is also changing.

There is a constant trend towards the light-car end of the market, which represented 14.2 per cent of the market (previously 13.0 per cent) in August following a noticeable drop in small car sales.

The small car share of the market dropped from 26.2 to 22.3 per cent in the latest VFACTS report, reflecting lower sales by the class-leading Corolla (down four per cent), Subaru Impreza (down 23 per cent) and the Mitsubishi Lancer (down 26 per cent).

Overall, Toyota remained secure in first place, racking up 16,633 registrations for the month, although it was a relatively lack-lustre performance, with a sales rise of four per cent – only one third what the market recorded.

Nevertheless, the company had another long list of class winners, with the Corolla and HiLux placing first in class and second and third outright on the combined cars and trucks best-sellers list.

HiLux remains Toyota’s best selling vehicle in 2010 with almost 3000 sales in August,” said David Buttner, Toyota’s senior executive director sales and marketing, who predicted the Japanese giant was headed for another big win in this year’s sales race.

“Toyota is on track for its eighth straight year of market leadership and its seventh year in a row in which sales exceeded 200,000 sales,” he said.

Mr Buttner put the market strength down to the improving economy, backed up by solid business and consumer confidence.

Of the 1955 Camry sales record in August – when the Camry was once again the dominant medium car on sale in Australia – 462 were hybrids.

Once again, the Corolla failed to take the top sales honours – this time by just 154 units – from long-time sales leader, the Holden Commodore, which did 3674 for the month. And Holden believes the gap might grow in the near future.

The VE Series II model, due for release later this month, was expected to extend the model’s reign at the top of the charts, according to John Elsworth, Holden executive director of sales, marketing and aftersales.

He said improved fuel efficiency across the range and the addition of flex-fuel capability to the 3.0-litre V6 and the 6.0-litre V8 – enabling them to run on either petrol or ethanol – would make the Commodore more attractive.

Bolstering Holden’s good figures for the month – up 17 per cent - was another strong performance from the Cruze small car, which squeezed past the Falcon with a total of 2382 registrations to be the fifth most popular passenger car.

“Sales of this impressive small car were up 20.9 per cent on the same month last year,” Mr Elsworth said, adding that it will be the only small car made in Australia when it enters production at the Elizabeth plant in South Australia early next year.

Top 10 brands August 2010
1. Toyota16,633
2. Holden11,146
3. Ford8212
4. Hyundai6560
5. Mazda6473
6. Nissan4733
7. Mitsubishi4502
8. Subaru3230
9. Volkswagen3022
10. Honda2740
Top selling cars:
1. Commodore3674
2. Corolla3520
3. Mazda32871
4. i302496
5. Cruze2383
6. Falcon2344
7. Camry1955
8. Getz1789
9. Lancer1614
10. Yaris1488
11. Forester1406
12. Barina1325
13. Captiva1317
14. Mazda21281
15. Prado1253
16. RAV41160
17. Golf1149
18. Territory1093
19. Swift1021
20. Fiesta911
Top selling LCVs:
1. Toyota HiLux2954
2. Nissan Navara1834
3. Ford Ranger1464
4. Holden Utility1220
5. Mitsubishi Triton1192
6. Holden Colorado927
7. Ford Utility876
8. Mazda BT50720
9. Toyota HiAce620
10. Hyundai iLoad428

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