What’s trend­ing?

Sales fig­ures for the first half of the year give a snap­shot of Aus­tralia’s chang­ing car mar­ket

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDITOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

HALF-TIME is typ­i­cally a time for re­flec­tion.

With six months of 2015 gone — and the of­fi­cial sales re­sults ar­riv­ing last week — it’s time to look at what was hot and what was not in show­rooms this year.

At a glance, small cars are out and tiny SUVs are in. Diesels and hy­brids are out, and tur­bocharged petrol cars are in. Lux­ury brands are in de­mand, lo­cal cars are not.

Honda and Isuzu sales are surg­ing, Ford and Holden have hit new lows.


Sales of baby SUVs are up by 23 per cent in the first half of the year, thanks to the ar­rival of new of­fer­ings from Mazda and Honda. The sur­prise last month was that Honda’s HR-V out­sold Mazda’s CX-3, de­spite a get-in price that is $5000 more than the baby Mazda. Buy­ers are no doubt at­tracted by the roomi­ness of the Honda’s cabin, which shares the clever de­sign of its donor ve­hi­cle, the Jazz. Mit­subishi has also ben­e­fited from the in­creased show­room in­ter­est in this type of ve­hi­cle, with sales of its ASX surg­ing by more than 45 per cent.


They share their un­der­pin­nings with the new breed of SUVs, but they haven’t been hurt by their ar­rival. Honda again leads the charge, with sales of its City sedan and Jazz hatch surg­ing. Sales of the all-new Mazda2 are also strong and it re­mains best­selling car in the class. Other mod­els that have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of buy­ers are the ever­green Suzuki Swift and Toy­ota Yaris, as well as the Volk­swa­gen Polo, which is up by more than 50 per cent thanks to sharp pric­ing.


Low in­ter­est rates mean that a lux­ury badge is now within reach of more car buy­ers. As a re­sult Audi, BMW, MercedesBenz and Lexus are all en­joy­ing dou­ble-digit growth. Un­der­stand­ably, most of the ac­tion is at the lower end of the mar­ket, with mod­els high on the shop­ping list in­clud­ing BMW’s Mini (up 59 per cent) and Audi’s A3 (up 23 per cent). BMW’s new 2 Se­ries coupe and Lexus’s NX small SUV have also launched with a bang, but the big­gest suc­cess story is Cars­guide’s 2014 Car of the Year, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which has dou­bled its sales in the first half of the year.


Some­body is cash­ing in on Aus­tralia’s prop­erty boom, with sales of sports cars cost­ing more than $200,000 ris­ing more than 20 per cent, al­beit off a low base. Fer­rari and Lam­borgh­ini deal­er­ships are busy this year, with Fer­rari log­ging 95 lo­cal sales com­pared with 52 in the same pe­riod last year and Lam­borgh­ini jump­ing from just seven sales to 60. The seg­ment’s most pop­u­lar car, the Porsche 911, also en­joyed solid growth. At the other end of the spec­trum, sales of af­ford­able sports cars slumped as the ini­tial shine pre­dictably wore off the Toy­ota 86, Subaru BRZ and Hyundai Veloster. That will change, though, when Mazda’s all-new MX-5 ar­rives in the sec­ond half of the year.


They’re big news in Ja­pan and Europe, but mi­cro cars haven’t cap­tured the Aus­tralian car buy­ing public’s imag­i­na­tion. De­spite the ar­rival of an all-new model in the Suzuki Cele­rio and a midlife up­date for the Nissan Mi­cra, sales are down by al­most a third.


They’re still the na­tion’s car of choice, but the ar­rival of baby SUVs has put a dent in the pop­u­lar­ity of the small-car brigade led by the Toy­ota Corolla and Mazda3. This time last year, the Mazda3 was the top-selling ve­hi­cle in Aus­tralia, but sales this year are down by al­most 10 per cent, can­ni­balised by the newer and funkier CX-3. Toy­ota, which has no mini-SUV in its range, fared bet­ter with the Corolla, which al­most held its own in a mar­ket seg­ment that shrank by 10,000 cars.


When lo­cally made cars be­gan to slide in pop­u­lar­ity, most pun­dits said it was be­cause they were too big and thirsty, but the fig­ures show oth­er­wise. Large cars are down by 14 per cent this year, but medium and large SUVs have en­joyed solid growth. Toy­ota’s Camry, which has a hy­brid ver­sion, has fared bet­ter than the rest of the lo­cals, but the Holden Cruze small car has ex­pe­ri­enced a big­ger sales slide than Ford’s Fal­con and Ter­ri­tory. Over­all, the prog­no­sis re­mains bleak. Aus­tralians bought al­most as many Ger­man-made cars as lo­cally-made ones in the first six months.


The Euro­peans are mad for it — and most 4WD utes use it too — but Aus­tralians, it seems, don’t like get­ting their hands dirty. Af­ter an ini­tial spike in in­ter­est in diesel pas­sen­ger cars and SUVs among pri­vate buy­ers and fleets be­tween 2005 and 2010, the in­ter­est con­tin­ues to wane. Sales of diesel pas­sen­ger cars grew six­fold from 2005 to 2010, while diesel SUV sales more than dou­bled. But in the first six months of this year — and on the back of a de­cline last year — sales of diesel cars fell by more than a quar­ter. Diesel SUV sales were stag­nant de­spite big growth in over­all SUV sales.

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