Hy­brids out of fash­ion

Our ar­dour for new fu­els has cooled, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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