Sales to fizz, says Re­nault

Gloomy times pre­dicted for Aus­tralian car sales, writes KEVIN HEP­WORTH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE first com­pany to fore­cast an end to Aus­tralia’s show­room boom has gone pub­lic with a sub-mil­lion pre­dic­tion for this year’s sales re­sult. Re­nault says the boom is over and pre­dicts im­porters and man­u­fac­tur­ers will have to tighten their belts for a pun­ish­ing drop in sales. Af­ter crack­ing the magic mil­lion mark last year and start­ing with bullish pre­dic­tions of a re­peat per­for­mance this year, soar­ing petrol prices and un­cer­tainty over in­ter­est rates has taken the fizz out of the in­dus­try, Re­nault says. ‘‘We are pre­dict­ing less than a mil­lion this year— about 970,000 or 980,000,’’ Re­nault Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Rudi Koenig says. ‘‘It may even be lower than that. We have reached the stage where we have high house­hold debts, high in­ter­est rates, high fuel prices. Peo­ple are re­ally watch­ing their dol­lars.’’ Koenig says the good times of the past cou­ple of years are over — at least for the time be­ing — and the mo­tor in­dus­try will have to take a hard look at fu­ture strat­egy. ‘‘The in­dus­try has en­joyed good times for quite a few years. Last year was a record year and the first six months of this year were ahead of last year’s run . . . but we can all see dark clouds on the hori­zon,’’ he says. ‘‘Economies are suf­fer­ing glob­ally, with some mar­kets in Europe and the US drop­ping 25 to 33 per cent. If you talk to deal­ers, it has been pretty tough in Aus­tralia for the past four weeks and though that hasn’t shown in the fig­ures to the end of June, it is go­ing to start to show up.’’ Of­fi­cial num­bers from the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries for July showed a year-so-far in­crease of 16,004 sales over last year. But pas­sen­ger-car sales were down in July and the FCAI agrees it could be a trend. Koenig says the sales drop in key seg­ments has trig­gered a more con­ser­va­tive in­dus­try out­look. ‘‘Hav­ing said that, the in­dus­try is mov­ing ahead and diesel now holds a 6 per cent share — over­all about 30 per cent in­clud­ing heavy and light com­mer­cial — and there has been a great shift away from large and up­per­large cars,’’ Koenig says. ‘‘In­ter­est­ingly, most are not go­ing to small cars but mov­ing into large SUVs — I sus­pect mov­ing from a petrol prod­uct into a diesel. Vans have been go­ing pretty well the fleet mar­ket has kept things up and run­ning for the past six months.’’

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