Hybrids out of fashion
Our ardour for new fuels has cooled, writes NEIL McDONALD
AUSTRALIA’S love affair with hybrids appears to have lasted only as long as high petrol prices. Despite new entrants to the market, the preference for hybrid vehicles has fallen 74 per cent among private buyers this year, according to the latest VFACTS industry figures on fuel and buyer type.
Its the same story with LPG and diesel vehicles, which have also suffered because of the downturn in new-car sales and the drop in petrol prices relative to the highs of last year.
Demand for LPG-powered passenger cars among private buyers has fallen 64 per cent this year. Diesel sales have fallen 35 per cent.
Notwithstanding fluctuations at the pump, petrol-powered cars remain the fuel of choice among private buyers.
Fleet choices of hybrids and LPG passenger vehicles have not dropped as steeply as private sales. Business demand for hybrid-fuelled passenger cars has softened 14 per cent in year-to-date terms.
LPG is holding up particularly well as a fuel preference among fleets and declined 4.6 per cent compared with last year.
Among fleet and businesses, diesel remains by far the most popular fuel choice. Diesel car sales are up 26 per cent so far this year.
With 2009 sales almost at the half-way mark, the market for new vehicles is showing signs of having bottomed.
End-of-financial-year deals and the Federal Government’s small business tax break for new vehicles, which has been extended to the end of the year, are driving renewed interest.
May sales were up 11,476 or 17.9 per cent against April (63,965 vehicles).
In seasonally adjusted terms the May volume represents a 4.5 per cent increase over April.
Despite the modest May revival, the overall market is down 19.2 per cent. So far this year 352,376 vehicles have sold, down 83,778 compared with last year.
Toyota remains market leader with 72,823 vehicles sold.
Holden in No.2 spot is 28,838 vehicles behind, or 8.2 per cent, and Ford is third with sales of 36,262.
A handful of brands are bucking the downturn.
Hyundai and Jaguar are in positive territory with sales up 16.4 per cent for each, based on the success of the Hyundai Getz and i30 and Jaguar’s new XF sedan.
HYUNDAI sold 1959 i30s and 1429 Getzes in May and 36 new XF sedans found homes. Newcomer Skoda’s sales are up 17 per cent off a very low base.
Audi is tracking well. Its sales are up 7 per cent thanks to the A5 and the arrival of the new Q5 off-roader, which is experiencing strong demand.
Dodge is up 21 per cent because of the new Journey people-mover and Nitro off-roader, but again off a relatively low base.
In contrast the main local carmakers — Toyota, Ford and Holden — have taken a big hit this year.
Toyota sales are down 28 per cent, Ford 18 per cent and Holden 20 per cent.
GM-Holden’s Saab and Hummer brands have fallen out of favour with buyers because of their unknown futures globally.
Hummer sales are down 53 per cent this year and Saab has sold only 226 cars this year, a 62 per cent drop compared with last year.
Individually, the Mazda3 and Toyota HiLux continue to kick goals. Mazda sold 3038 3s last month, of which 655 were the previousgeneration model.
The Toyota HiLux continued to successfully straddle the gap between a passenger car and work ute, selling 3170 last month.
Though Holden Commodore sales are down 12 per cent this year, it remains the country’s best-selling passenger car with 3683 sold last month, bringing its year-to-date tally to 16,839.
Ford’s FG Falcon is trying hard but it is still failing to ignite interest. Sales are down only 2 per cent compared to last year but its May tally of 2846 will not please executives at Ford’s Broadmeadows HQ.
The company has sold only 11,080 Falcons this year.