New-vehicle sales decline
The Australian new-vehicle market’s sales slump accelerated in December, with volume diving almost 15 percent over the same month last year to leave the overall 2018 tally three percent short of 2017’s record sales number.
The December decline was double the 7.4 percent fall in November, sounding warning alarms for the car industry at a time when other economic bellwether segments such as house prices are struggling.
Industry leaders were talking up the positives of the market that managed 1,153,111 sales in the year to the end of December, saying the performance was still one of the highest on record and the 11th time that sales had surpassed the million-unit mark.
But they admit negatives such as the bank credit squeeze, drought, upcoming federal election and lack of wage growth are impacting sales, with consumers becoming more cautious in the second half of 2018.
Long-time market leader Toyota topped the sales charts for the 16th year in succession, recording its best annual tally in six years – 217,061 vehicles.
Its Hilux pick-up became the nation’s best seller for the third year in succession, scoring 51,705 sales – not only a record for the model but also a new benchmark for workhorse utes.
Toyota also picked up the passenger car crown, with its Corolla, 35,320 sales, out-pacing Mazda’s former champion, the Mazda3, 31,065 sales, for the sixth year.
But Mazda had the last laugh in the burgeoning SUV market, with its refurbished CX-5, 26,173 sales, retaining its number one SUV title over Toyota’s soon-to-be-replaced RAV4, 22,165, and Nissan’s X-trail, 21,192.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said the three percent decline from the 2017 record sales year reflected a challenging climate across the Australian economy, including a slowing housing market, tightening of money lending and the drought.
However, he said the fundamentals of the Australian economy were still strong, pointing to another solid year of car sales in 2019.
The worry for the motor industry is that previously strong segments such as SUVS and light-commercial vehicles joined passenger cars in negative territory in December.
SUV sales were down seven percent on the corresponding month last year and light-commercial vehicles tumbled 12.5 percent. The passenger car decline accelerated to 26.3 percent for the month.
The SUV grip on the market increased in 2018, with the familyfriendly wagons accounting for 43 percent of sales compared with passenger cars’ 30.9 percent.
Market juggernaut Toyota was one of the few mainstream companies to make sales gains in 2017, helping it to outsell its nearest rival, Mazda, by almost two to one. The latter achieved 111,280 sales for the year, down 4.4 percent.
Hyundai again took the third step on the podium, recording 94,187 sales – a decline of 2.9 percent. Mitsubishi came fourth with 84,944 sales – up 5.3 percent – thanks largely to strong performances by the Triton ute and ASX small SUV.
Ford – purveyor of the nation’s number-two vehicle, the Ranger pick-up, 42,144, and the top-selling sportscar, the Mustang, 6412, – came fifth with 69,081 sales, down 11.6 percent.
Its traditional rival, Holden, slumped from fourth place in 2017 to sixth in 2018 as its sales plummeted 32.7 percent, to 60,754 units, as it struggled to get to grips with manufacturing.
Its market share of 5.3 percent was its worst since the Holden brand was launched in 1948.
The Holden Commodore – once Australia’s best-selling car – achieved just 9040 sales, down 61.8 percent, in a market segment that plunged 57.7 percent in 2018.
Korean importer Kia is now breathing down Holden’s neck, with sales of 58,815 units in 2018, just 1939 behind Holden.
Nissan swam against the market tide to lift its sales by two percent, to 57,699 units, putting it ahead of Volkswagen, 56,620, Honda, 51,525, and Subaru, 50,051.
Mercedes-benz again was Australia’s number one luxury car seller, despite a 13.1 percent decline in sales, mainly due to a compliance problem with the facelifted version of its bestselling C-class that hamstrung sales severely.
However, C-class was still comfortably the best-selling luxury car, with 5055 sales, ahead of Mercedes’ own Cla-series, 3086, and BMW’S 3 Series, 3079.
BMW came second among the luxury marques with 23,055 sales, down 2.4 percent, with Audi third on 19,416 sales, -11.8 percent. life after
WINNER: Toyota’s Hilux shrugged off problems such as the credit squeeze and lingering drought to smash the Australian pick-up sales record with 51,705 sales in 2018.