Long live the kings

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - NEWS - Richard Black­burn

AF­TER months of record growth, new-car sales tum­bled in Fe­bru­ary. Pas­sen­ger car sales dipped by more than 12 per cent over the same month last year. What was hot and what wasn’t?

HOT SUVs

It’s of­fi­cial. SUVs are now kings of the road. Sales of soft-road­ers over­took pas­sen­ger cars for the first time, led by Mazda’s CX-5, Toy­ota’s RAV4 and Hyundai’s Tuc­son. The trend is likely to con­tinue, as Toy­ota and Peu­geot last month re­leased new miniSUVs. Hyundai will join the fray later this year. VW and Kia have new mod­els com­ing.

Dream wheels

The top end of town bucked the down­ward trend. As­ton Martin, Bent­ley, Maserati, McLaren and Lam­borgh­ini all en­joyed stel­lar months. For Maserati and Bent­ley, new SUVs have been the key to suc­cess. Half of Bent­ley’s sales were Ben­tay­gas, while three-quar­ters of Maser­atis sold were Le­vantes. Porsche and Fer­rari missed out on the ac­tion. Buy­ers were also less en­thused about the main­stream lux­ury brands — BMW, Audi, Lexus and Volvo were on the nose in Fe­bru­ary. Only Mercedes, Jaguar and up­start In­finiti in­creased sales.

Kia

Kia sales were up by more than a third in Fe­bru­ary, driven by ra­zor-sharp deals on the topselling Cer­ato sedan and hatch. But it’s not all deal-driven. The Sportage had a bumper month — sales al­most dou­bled over Fe­bru­ary last year. The larger Sorento sold solidly, while the Car­ni­val peo­ple-mover is streets ahead of ri­vals. Hav­ing a warranty twice as long as most of the ma­jor play­ers also is hav­ing the de­sired ef­fect.

NOT Sedans

Lo­cally built sedans aren’t the only ones be­ing frozen out by cus­tomers. Sales of mid-sized sedans are down by 16 per cent in the first two months. Iron­i­cally, the only mid-sized sedan to in­crease sales this year is the lo­cally made Camry. The Mazda6, Subaru Lib­erty and Honda Ac­cord, once com­mon sights in sub­ur­ban drive­ways, are be­ing com­fort­ably out­sold by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Com­modore sales were down by a third.

Holden

The home-grown hero vied with Nis­san for the ti­tle of big­gest loser in Fe­bru­ary, record­ing a 22 per cent dip over the same month last year. Aussies still love their foot­ball, meat pies and kan­ga­roos but Holden cars weren’t flavour of the month. Sales of pas­sen­ger cars were down by more than 40 per cent but the com­pany’s SUVs saved the day with a big lift in sales. It wasn’t enough to save the brand from be­ing out­sold by Mit­subishi for the first time in re­cent mem­ory.

Ford

Af­ter 14 months of grow­ing sales, the Blue Oval took a tum­ble in Fe­bru­ary, reg­is­ter­ing a 15 per cent dip. The drop-off in sales was in­evitable with the clos­ing of the Ford fac­tory in Oc­to­ber, as Falcon sales are slow­ing to a trickle, but it has ex­posed the brand’s re­liance on the Ranger work­horse. More than half the peo­ple who bought a Ford in Fe­bru­ary got a Ranger. More wor­ry­ing is the fact that Ford is weak in SUV sales. It’s the fifth best-sell­ing brand in Aus­tralia but 10th in SUV sales.

HO T

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