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