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VFACTS: Car market down 18 per cent in March

Color code: Holden’s Colorado spiked last month as buyers secured unbeatable deals before they all run out – forever.

COVID-19 bites hard but Toyota firm, Kia outsells Hyundai, Holden up as it heads out

3 Apr 2020

THE COVID-19 pandemic has begun to heavily impact new-vehicle sales in Australia, with figures released today showing that registrations fell 17.9 per cent in March as buyers kept away from showrooms and dealerships scaled back their operations as a result.


The decline is perhaps not as deep as anticipated, with Australia’s response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic less stringent at this stage than in other markets where tighter restrictions including full lockdowns are in place.


Consumer buying patterns in the early part of the month were subsequently more positive for the sector, and over the entire month some brands even managed to find growth compared to the corresponding month last year, including market leader Toyota, an ebullient Kia and the fast-disappearing Holden.


Indeed, Kia outsold its long-dominant South Korean sister brand Hyundai for the first time ever last month, landing in fourth position with 5654 sales (+6.6%) compared to Hyundai’s 5306 units that marked a 31.4 per cent decrease and pushed it to fifth.


As expected, Holden recorded a sharp increase in sales last month – up 30.2 per cent to 4992 sales – as deliveries were made for extraordinary deals on offer in the aftermath of General Motors’ announcement on February 17 that it was killing off the historic Australian brand and leaving this market by the end of the year.


This brought Holden back into the table of leading brands and up to sixth position, the majority of sales going the way of the Colorado ute (2391, +38.2%) which was fifth overall among the individual models.


Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber said the 81,690 registrations recorded last month – the lowest result for March since during the global financial crisis in 2009 and the 24th consecutive month of negative growth for the already embattled auto sector – are mainly attributed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the general economy.


“Many dealerships have opted to remain open to maintain support for customers, particularly from a service perspective, during this difficult period,” he said.


“Of particular importance are first responder and essential services vehicles. We must keep these vehicles on the road to ensure our communities continue to function and remain safe.


“In addition, we need to ensure those who physically attend their workplace can travel safely. The motor vehicle is a safe form of transport during the pandemic, allowing occupants to preserve their personal distance from other commuters.


“Within dealerships, customer safety is of the highest priority, and automotive brands have initiated a variety of enhanced hygiene protocols and contactless consultations to maintain personal distance.”


Toyota’s sheer dominance of the market was on display again last month, its 17,583 sales representing a 21.5 per cent share and a 1.6 per cent increase over March 2019.


HiLux was the biggest-selling model across all segments, although its 3556 sales were 21.4 per cent fewer than the Toyota ute racked up a year earlier. Significant growth came from the Japanese brand’s other two key volume-selling models – the RAV4 mid-size SUV (2991, +111.2%) and Corolla small car (2812, +12.5%) – which were in third and fourth place respectively.


The Ford Ranger ute split the Toyota triumvirate, placing second with 3108 sales, but this was a 16.5 per cent write-down and reflected Ford’s overall 21.1 per cent downturn for the month with 4857 sales, which sent it down to seventh place among the leading brands.


Elsewhere, Mazda was in its familiar second position but with only 6819 sales – a 31.6 per cent crunch – and Mitsubishi was third on 6002 units, down 40.8 per cent in what was the deepest monthly decline among the main players.


The triple-diamond brand’s all-important Triton ute took a 32.0 per cent hit, managing only 1813 sales for the month compared to 2666 a year ago, while Mazda’s top-selling model, the CX-5 mid-size SUV, fell 28.2 per cent with 1734 sales.


The minor placings among the top 10 brands proved to be a contest between Nissan (3501, -31.6%), Honda (3144, -27.5%) and a resurgent Subaru, which managed to post a positive result last month (+0.2%) with 3024 sales.


This saw Volkswagen slip outside the top 10 with 2638 sales – 38.7 per cent fewer than it posted in March last year – while Mercedes was easily the best performer among the premium brands, finishing with 2638 sales for a relatively shallow 11.9 per cent deficit in this deteriorating economic climate.


BMW’s sales were down 24.1 per cent to 1607 units, while Audi was dealt a 30.3 per cent blow with 999 sales for the month.


Across the industry, SUVs account for 48.0 per cent of all sales last month (39,171, -14.2%), compared to passenger vehicles on 26.7 per cent (21,777, -24.9%) and light-commercial vehicles with a 22.2 per cent share (18,162, -15.5%) – but all suffered double-digit deficits compared to March last year.


Heavy commercial vehicles (2580) were also down 17.6 per cent for the month.


For the year to date, the overall market is running 13.1 per cent behind where it was after the first quarter of 2019.


Top 10 Brands March 2020

Ranking Brand Sales Share% 
1 Toyota 17,583 21.5
2 Mazda 6819 8.3
3 Mitsubishi 6002 7.3
4 Kia 5654 6.9
5 Hyundai 5306 6.5
6 Holden 4992 6.1
7 Ford 4857 5.9
8 Nissan 3501 4.3
9 Honda 3144 3.8
10 Subaru 3024 3.7


Top 10 Models March 2020

Ranking Model Sales
1 Toyota HiLux 3556
2 Ford Ranger 3108
3 Toyota RAV4 2991
4 Toyota Corolla 2812
5 Holden Colorado 2391
6 Toyota LandCruiser 2043
7 Hyundai i30 1856
8 Kia Cerato 1841
9 Mitsubishi Triton 1813
10 Mazda CX-5 1734

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