Pre­mier­ship tro­phy

The tal­lies are in for the 2016 sea­son and the play­ers line up for best afield — the flag is Toy­ota’s

Herald Sun - Cars Guide - - NEWS -

WHAT­EVER the sport, Aus­tralians play to win. Our new car mar­ket is also one of the most ruth­lessly com­pet­i­tive in the world.

When the sea­son ends on De­cem­ber 31, the pre­mier­ship ta­ble tells a tale of tri­umphant win­ners, stars on the rise and coulda-been, should­abeen or never-stood-a-chance losers.

In a 2016 mar­ket that set yet an­other sales record, Toy­ota again emerged vic­to­ri­ous, for the 14th con­sec­u­tive year. It im­proved on its 2015 per­for­mance and won by the length of the straight, with an as­cen­dant Mazda the run­ner-up and a steady Hyundai in third place, rel­e­gat­ing Holden to fourth.

Holden is a big loser for 2016, again suf­fer­ing fall­ing sales and de­clin­ing mar­ket share. The brand we used to call Aus­tralia’s own is strug­gling with an unin­spir­ing model line-up — although that is chang­ing with im­port­ing Euro­pean cars — and an iden­tity cri­sis.

Many peo­ple mis­tak­enly be­lieve Holden will dis­ap­pear when Com­modore pro­duc­tion stops, so there’s a lack of con­fi­dence in the brand and pre­cious lit­tle loy­alty left.

Ford, on the other hand, is do­ing well as it makes the tran­si­tion from lo­cal maker to pure im­porter, largely due to the suc­cess of the Ranger one-ton­ner, which has driven it into fifth place, over­tak­ing Mit­subishi.

The death of the Fal­con hasn’t hurt Ford Aus­tralia at all. Iit’s ar­guably freed the com­pany to rein­vent it­self and ap­peal to a much wider, younger au­di­ence.

So Ford ver­sus Holden may no longer be the main game but it’s still a fas­ci­nat­ing con­test. In 2015, Holden beat Ford by al­most 30,000 sales. In 2016, the gap more than halved.

In 2017, it’s game on again for these two old war­riors, which for­merly di­vided the Aus­tralian car mar­ket be­tween them­selves.

The stakes are much smaller now, but Blue v Red is still a take-no­pris­on­ers con­test.

Kia scores the Most Im­proved Award for 2016, boot­ing Honda out of the Top 10 and record­ing a hefty sales in­crease of more than 25 per cent. Back­ing its prod­uct with a best-in-the-busi­ness seven year/ un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty has brought many new cus­tomers .

In eighth spot, VW is hang­ing in but sales have de­clined, for rea­sons you can prob­a­bly guess. It’s fought back with sharp deals on Polo and Golf and has a win­ner with the new Tiguan, our 2016 Car of the Year.

How­ever, VW still faces more time in the sin bin as the Diesel­gate disas­ter plays out.

Speak­ing of dis­as­ters, Jeep had a big­gie, with sales fall­ing by roughly 50 per cent in 2016. You bought a what? A some­thing else, ob­vi­ously. Rene­gade and Chero­kee failed to fire while Grand Chero­kee sales plum­meted.

Jeep also wore fall­out from the con­sumer watch­dog’s keen, and well pub­li­cised, in­ter­est dur­ing 2015 in its less than ex­em­plary re­sponse to cus­tomer com­plaints.

In­di­vid­ual play­ers can make or break a team’s re­sult. Toy­ota — with the top sell­ing ve­hi­cle in the coun­try, the HiLux, and the top sell­ing car, the Corolla, sec­ond over­all — has a cou­ple of leg­endary long-term per­form­ers.

They’re fol­lowed by the Hyundai i30, which did huge num­bers at $19,990 drive-away (es­pe­cially with the au­to­matic chucked in), Ford’s Ranger and the Mazda3, which has beaten Corolla in a few pre­vi­ous sea­sons but this year couldn’t match its form.

Toy­ota doesn’t mess around when it comes to pro­tect­ing its po­si­tion. It ham­mered the Mazda with at­trac­tive drive-away pric­ing on Corolla, re­sponded to Hyundai’s rapidly im­prov­ing Tuc­son and Mazda’s CX-5 with deals on RAV4 and fought back against Ranger at the back end of the year with a $52,990 drive-away deal on the top-spec HiLux SR5.

Fac­tory dis­counts on HiLux were non-ex­is­tent not so long ago. The new re­al­ity says ev­ery­thing is ne­go­tiable.

Hyundai had a few other brands scream­ing foul over its ag­gres­sive dis­count­ing but buy­ers ob­vi­ously like it, with the Ac­cent at $14,990 drive­away record­ing a stun­ning in­crease of more than 75 per cent on its 2015 re­sult.

The 2017 sea­son has only just kicked off but four things are al­ready cer­tain­ties. The long, proud tra­di­tion of Aus­tralian car man­u­fac­tur­ing will reach the end of the road, Toy­ota will win the pre­mier­ship, our love af­fair with SUVs and one-tonne utes will con­tinue — and the com­pe­ti­tion will be white hot.

2015 Toy­ota HiLux 4x4 SR5 dou­ble cab

TOY­OTA COROLLA

HYUNDAI i30

FORD RANGER

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