RIDE THE NEXT WAVE

OUR CHANG­ING TASTES IN CARS — AND BRANDS

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

A seis­mic shift has hit the Aus­tralian au­to­mo­tive land­scape in the past decade. Ten years ago, the Holden Com­modore was Aus­tralia’s topselling car ahead of the Toy­ota Corolla and Ford Fal­con. Sedans were the de­fault choice for the Aus­tralian fam­ily, while one-tonne utes were strictly work­horses, painted white with hose-out cab­ins.

Fast for­ward to to­day and car buy­ers have proven a fickle lot.

High-rid­ing SUVs and utes are the trans­port of choice to the point where a pair of one-tonne utes — the Toy­ota HiLux and Ford Ranger — reign as our top-two sell­ing ve­hi­cles this year. And SUVs have re­placed sedans in sub­ur­ban drive­ways.

It’s not just the type of ve­hi­cle that has changed ei­ther. We’ve em­braced some brands that weren’t on shop­ping lists be­fore and aban­doned peren­nial favourites.

A decade ago, most buy­ers turned their noses up at Kia. Sales of the brand have dou­bled since and this year they are up by al­most a third.

Mean­while, lo­cal heroes Holden and Ford have nose­dived in sales and de­sir­abil­ity alike.

Holden sales have al­most halved over the past decade, while a re­cent sur­vey of owner sat­is­fac­tion and loy­alty by in­dus­try an­a­lysts Ip­sos Aus­tralia shows that Ford is the least-- rec­om­mended com­pany among the top 10 brands. Holden fared lit­tle bet­ter.

The only con­stant has been in­dus­try heavy­weight Toy­ota. The brand is top of the shop­ping list for roughly one in five car buy­ers.

As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at what’s hot and what’s not in 2017.

MOVERS KIA

The brand has come a long way since the dis­as­trous det­o­nat­ing en­gines of the first gen­er­a­tion Car­ni­val peo­ple-mover.

An in­dus­try-lead­ing seven-year war­ranty and un­matched drive-away deals have tempted many buy­ers this year.

The Cer­ato sedan and hatch — backed by $19,990 drive-away deals for au­to­matic mod­els — have been the ma­jor con­trib­u­tors.

Spokesman Kevin Hep­worth says the sev­enyear war­ranty gives peo­ple per­mis­sion to come and look at the cars, after which they’re im­pressed by the qual­ity.

“The fi­nal rea­son we con­tinue to go up is our con­sis­tency of pric­ing,” he says.

“The Cer­ato is a good ex­am­ple: the base car has been $19,990 since it launched a cou­ple of years ago.”

SKODA

The Czech brand, prac­ti­cally un­heard of in Aus­tralia 10 years ago, is on tar­get to notch more than 5000 sales this year.

Un­til re­cently, if you wanted a Skoda your choices of body style were lim­ited but the ar­rival this year of the Kodiaq fam­ily SUV — to be fol­lowed next year by the smaller Karoq — has broad­ened the choices. Sales are up by al­most 16 per cent year-to-date.

Spokesman Paul Pottinger says buy­ers are start­ing to recog­nise the brand de­liv­ers a lot of equip­ment for the ask­ing price. He says more SUVs in the range will ac­cel­er­ate the trend.

“This is the year Skoda comes out of the niche-car cul-de-sac and on to the main­stream boule­vard,” he says.

SUBARU

Subaru has built up an en­vi­ably loyal band of fans in re­cent years and, as such, the ar­rival of an all-new model cre­ates a stam­pede in the show­room.

Sales this year are up 13 per cent on the back of the new Im­preza. Sales of the com­pact sedan and hatch are well up and the Im­preza just trails the Forester as the brand’s best-sell­ing model. Spokesman David Row­ley says be­ing an early adopter of ac­tive safety aids has helped the com­pany’s im­age.

“From all-wheel drive to EyeSight, Subaru is proud of its safety and that res­onates with buy­ers when it is in a well-pack­aged ve­hi­cle,” he says.

HONDA

The brand has been in the dol­drums since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, with lack­lus­tre ve­hi­cles that failed to hide the cost-cut­ting be­hind the scenes.

The new Civic has changed all that. Sales of the com­pact sedan and hatch ver­sions have more than dou­bled in the first 10 months of the year and the SUV line-up, headed by the new CR-V and the baby HR-V, is also at­trac­tive.

Honda spokesman Neil McDon­ald says an in­crease in war­ranty cov­er­age from three to five years has also helped.

ISUZU

The choice is lim­ited if you go shop­ping in an Isuzu deal­er­ship but that hasn’t stopped sales from boom­ing. The D-Max ute and MU-X SUV are out­selling Audi so far this year. The brand at­tributes the suc­cess to a rep­u­ta­tion for rugged­ness and dura­bil­ity.

BE­LOW PAR JEEP

Cor­po­rate scan­dals, re­calls, even a you-tube hit from a dis­grun­tled cus­tomer ... the Jeep badge has lost its lus­tre. Sales are down by more than a third this year, although the im­mi­nent ar­rival of cav­alry in the shape of a new Com­pass and Wran­gler could stem the tide. A just-launched five-year war­ranty won’t hurt ei­ther.

NIS­SAN

The Pul­sar small car was once one of the shin­ing show­room stars but the dis­as­trous Ti­ida that fol­lowed put a big dent in the brand’s ap­peal. The X-Trail and Qashqai are pop­u­lar with SUV buy­ers but after Nis­san axed sev­eral of its pas­sen­ger cars the sales slide has been more than 15 per cent.

HOLDEN

Ten years ago, Aus­tralians bought more Com­modores than Hyundais. Now the on­cemighty Red Lion is fac­ing a dif­fi­cult fu­ture, as buy­ers desert it in droves. Sales this year are down by 10 per cent but that only tells half the story. Roughly a third of those sales were home­grown Com­modores — and now the plant is closed. A Euro­pean-built Com­modore will ar­rive next year but even Holden ad­mits it won’t come close to the lo­cal car in sales. The only pos­i­tive for Holden in 2017 is the Colorado ute, which is rid­ing the tsunami of de­mand for one-tonne utes.

VOLVO

There are scarcely more “bloody Volvo driv­ers” than there were a decade ago. The new XC60 couldn’t come soon enough for Volvo Aus­tralia. The Swedish brand is down by 22 per cent, with ev­ery model los­ing sales ex­cept the just­launched S90 flag­ship. A pledge to elec­trify the range, pre­sum­ably with mild hy­brids, by 2019 will give Volvo an edge with early adopters who have ac­cess to a garage and a power point and ap­pre­ci­ate the brand’s min­i­mal­ist style and light en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print.

BMW

The Ger­man lux­ury player is hop­ing the new X3 SUV, pre­dicted to be­come its best­seller, can ar­rest an alarm­ing slump in sales. Buy­ers have turned their back on the brand’s bread-and-but­ter 3 Se­ries and it is cop­ping a hid­ing from arch ri­val Mercedes-Benz.

BMW spokeswoman Lenore Fletcher says the brand will bounce back when new mod­els hit the show­rooms. “Th­ese things are cycli­cal and we have new prod­uct across the board from the new X3 to the M5 and a re­vised i3,” she says.

Sales swings and round­abouts: From left, BMW X3, Nis­san Qashqai, Volvo XC60, Jeep Com­pass

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