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