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VFACTS: Commodore drops to fifth in sales race

Well-equipped: Holden hopes its special value-added Equipe models will help the Commodore retain its 15-year crown as Australia’s top-selling car.

Holden’s champion on the ropes as Hyundai and VW Golf star in October

4 Nov 2011

HOLDEN has seen sales of its once-dominant Commodore large car plummet in October, dropping from second to be only the fifth-best-selling vehicle in Australia, despite a 2012 model year upgrade and offering special edition Equipe versions that offered $9500 of extra value.

As consumers continued to desert the traditional Aussie large car, small cars continued their upward trend in October – growing 31.8 per cent according to official VFACTS figures issued today – with three of the month’s four top sellers being the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3.

The trend to smaller cars had other significant effects in October.

Korean brand Hyundai shrugged off the loss of its Getz price-leader to become the third most popular brand, behind only Toyota and Holden but ahead of both Ford and Mazda.

And the Volkswagen Golf took third place on the Top 10 models list, beaten only by Toyota’s usual big-hitters, the Corolla and HiLux, but finishing ahead of the Mazda3, Commodore, Holden Cruze, Hyundai i30, Toyota Camry, Ford Falcon and Mitsubishi Lancer.

Driveaway pricing linked with strong stock levels sent Golf sales soaring to 3337 units in October – double its 2011 monthly average and some 178 per cent higher than for the same month last year. It was only 257 units shy of unseating the Corolla for top spot.

Although the embattled Commodore remains the top-selling car in the country year-to-date, its lead over the Mazda3 has been trimmed back to just 371 units.

106 center imageFrom top: Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf, Toyota HiLux and Mazda3.

With only two months of the year remaining and facing unwelcome speculation about its future in Australia, the Commodore remains in danger of seeing its unbroken 15-year reign as the country’s most popular vehicle come to an end.

Holden director of sales Philip Brook admitted that it was “a pretty challenging month” for the brand, with the Cruze small car and Captiva SUV being constrained by availability, but expects the Equipe special editions – which were only released mid-month – to boost Commodore sales.

“Commodore continues to be a cornerstone of the Holden model line-up,” said Mr Brook.

“It will be a tough fight to the end of 2011, but with Commodore Equipe at dealers, Cruze hatch going on sale next week and the new-generation Barina hatchback arriving this month, we’re looking forward to a strong finish at Holden.”

Releasing the results, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Ian Chalmers said sales in October were 5.3 per cent higher than for the same month last year at 85,196, making it the best October since before the Global Financial Crisis.

Although sales remain down 2.8 per cent YTD, the Australian market remains on track to better one million sales for the fourth time, and the second year in succession.

“Manufacturers are reporting a steady increase in demand, placing the industry in a strong position to reach our target of one million sales for the calendar year,” said Mr Chalmers.

“So far this year 837,324 new vehicles have been sold. While this is 2.8 per cent fewer than for the same period in 2010, last month’s figures are the best October sales result since 2007 and suggest a return to pre-GFC sales volumes.”

Mr Chalmers attributed the strong sales to relatively stable fuel prices in October and a perceived return of business confidence.

Corolla took top place for the month with 3593 sales, followed by Toyota HiLux (3480), Golf (3337), Mazda3 (3185) and Commodore (3018).

After months of disturbed supply in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake, Toyota had plenty of stock and used low finance incentives to bring buyers back into showrooms, resulting in 17,239 sales for a 20.2 per cent share – well ahead of its YTD figure of 17.7 per cent.

Holden sold a total of 10,209 vehicles while Hyundai took third place with 7507 sales, with i20 and i30 accounting for more than half.

Demand for passenger cars grew 5.0 per cent in October compared with the same month last year, but the huge 31.8 per cent increase for small cars concealed a disturbing further 25.1 per cent slump in sales of large cars.

Of the Australian-produced cars, Commodore sales were down 20.3 per cent (Ute also down 17.5 per cent), Ford’s Falcon dropped 29.5 per cent (Ute down 6.0 per cent) and the Toyota Aurion lost 22.2 per cent.

However, a 41.6 per cent jump for the four-cylinder Camry – which grabbed a 51.1 per cent share of medium car sales under $60,000 – rescued the situation for locally manufactured cars, which were up 20.1 per cent overall for the month to 13,450.

SUV sales increased 5.4 per cent in October, with luxury vehicles continuing to lead the way, despite losses for the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class in the face of the new-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee.

A welcome 38.0 per cent rise for Ford’s new second-generation Territory gave it honours for the month over Toyota’s medium SUV segment-leading twins, Prado and Kluger, putting the locally built wagon narrowly ahead of the Captiva YTD and helping the segment to a trend-reversing 9.9 per cent rise for the month (down 8.2 per cent YTD).

The hotly contested compact SUV segment appears to have stabilised, being only 1.8 per cent up for the month and 3.8 per cent YTD. Toyota’s RAV4 dropped 10.9 per cent for the month but still won comfortably from the Nissan X-Trail (up 4.4 per cent), which beat the Subaru Forester (down 23.8 per cent) by just two sales.

In the light commercial market, which was up 5.7 per cent overall in October, Ford’s new and highly regarded Ranger has had a troubled introduction, having launched in September with a limited model range and then being hit badly by the floods in Thailand.

Ford Australia sold 1087 Rangers in October – 277 fewer than in September and 223 fewer than October last year – leaving it well behind HiLux (3480), Nissan Navara (1455), Mitsubishi Triton (1256) and Colorado (1142) for the month.

Thai production is expected to resume in the next couple of weeks so Ford will be hoping for better things next year, as will Mazda with its BT-50 version.

In the luxury car market, Audi (up 13.8 per cent) enjoyed a rare victory over German rival BMW (down 23.4 per cent) – 1162 sales to 1122 in October – as the 3 Series, 5 Series, X1 and X5 struggled, but Mercedes-Benz remained well ahead with 1449 sales (down 1.0 per cent).

Other brands that struggled in October included Chrysler, which sold a mere 18 units for the month, and Honda, which dropped 39.2 per cent over the same month last year despite a number of retail initiatives and is now down 25.2 per cent YTD.

Golf’s stunning sales month helped VW record a 53.0 per cent increase for the month, pushing it up to seventh place, just ahead of Mitsubishi.

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