JANUARY is typically a tough month for the car industry, as fleet buyers take a break and dealers struggle to find customers for cars they reported as “sold” in December. The industry managed to keep its record-breaking momentum nonetheless, with sales up marginally on the same month last year.
There is life after Falcon and Territory. Despite the closure of its Australian manufacturing operations in October, Ford started the new year as it finished the old, with improving sales on the back of its new hero, the Ranger pick-up. Unlike rival Holden, the Blue Oval has managed to successfully wean itself off locally-built vehicles, which made up less than 10 per cent of sales in January. The 4WD Ranger beat its arch-rival Toyota HiLux, while the Focus started the year strongly and the Mondeo was the second most popular mainstream mid-sized sedan.
The arrival of some notable new models has given the hatchback market a lift. Subaru’s new Impreza might not look very different from its predecessor but it doubled its sales over last January. Exceptional deals on the Kia Cerato have made it a popular choice — sales are up by 90 per cent over last year. The Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla both had solid months, while the Mazda3 dipped slightly.
Sales of SUVs almost eclipsed passenger car sales in January and it’s only a matter of time before they become the dominant force on our roads. Mid-sized softroaders led the charge, with the Mazda CX-5 retaining its place on the top of buyer lists, followed closely by the Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson. Sales of miniSUVs dipped in January, despite the arrival of the new Suzuki Ignis and strong sales of its stablemate Vitara. Mazda’s CX-3 comfortably outsold the opposition, as the Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V filled the minor placings. The arrival of Toyota’s C-HR later this month should get this segment back in the minds of buyers.
The mid-sized sedan was Australia’s most popular car in December with a mammoth 4850 sales. Last month only 580 new customers were found. Toyota denies any shenanigans but dealers report it’s a bit hard to sell new models with all those “low-kilometre demos” floating about. Camry’s demise cleared the way for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to become the country’s number one selling mid-sized sedan, while BMW’s 3 Series attracted more buyers than mainstream favourites the Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty. Australians came very close to buying more prestige sedans than garden variety ones.
The arrival of the all-new Tiguan towards the end of last year has failed to stem the tide for the German brand. Carsguide’s Car of the Year attracted more than 700 buyers, compared with none last January, but that wasn’t enough to stop VW sales dipping by more than 8 per cent in January. Golf, Passat and Polo sales were all down, while the family-sized Touareg SUV also struggled to get onto shopping lists.
A new Compass is coming later this year, but the sales needle is firmly pointing south for Jeep. Sales dipped by almost 50 per cent last year but it appears the brand hasn’t found rock bottom yet. January numbers were roughly a third of where they were at the start of last year, with the flagship Grand Cherokee struggling.