Long live the kings
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.