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Rental companies snap up SUVs

Rental rise: Sales of SUV's, such as the Nissan X-Trail, to rental companies have doubled in Australia.

SUV sales to rental fleets soar 109 per cent as off-roaders flood into Australia

General News logo10 May 2012

RENTAL company purchases of sport utility vehicles have more than doubled in a year in Australia, with a record 3555 SUVs registered to rental fleets so far in 2012.

The SUV rental influx spiked in March when sales shot up to 1622 units, a rise of almost 150 per cent over the same month last year, official VFACTS figures show.

The April increase was a more modest 12.9 per cent, to 638 vehicles, but rental fleet SUV purchases are still running 109 per cent ahead of last year’s four-month tally.

This compares with a year-to-date increase of 25.6 per cent for SUV private buyers and a 21.3 per cent gain in business SUV purchases.

Rental company purchases still only account for 3.7 per cent of the 94,775 SUV sales in Australia so far in 2012, but SUVs have moved ahead of light-commercial vehicles (LCVs) on rental company purchase books this year, 3555 to 1736.

LCV rental fleet sales have fallen 11.7 per cent – a drop that might be attributed to a shortage of Thai-built utes in local stocks in the wake of last year’s devastating floods.

By contrast, SUVs have been flooding into Australia, with a strong Australian dollar and ever-expanding model line-up driving a buyer’s market – and happy hunting for rental fleet buyers looking for hot deals from stressed car companies looking to meet sales targets.

 center imageFrom top: Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota RAV4.

The rise in rental company interest in SUVs also reflects the community’s growing interest in these vehicles, which now account for more than one in four vehicles registered in Australia.

So far this year, SUVs have taken a 27.9 per cent chunk of vehicles sales – up 4.3 percentage points – while traditional passenger vehicles have slipped 2.9 percentage points, to 53.1 per cent.

Since 2009, SUV rental sales volumes have had a wild ride, plunging from a high of 5535 units in 2008 to a low of 2910 in 2009 – a drop of 47.4 per cent – at the height of the global financial crisis, and then soaring 135 per cent to 6858 vehicles in 2010.

Last year, sales edged up 13.9 per cent to a record 7812 units for the full 12 months – a figure that appears to be in danger of being surpassed well before the end of this year.

The spike in March SUV sales to rental fleets might by partly explained by an end-of-Japanese-financial-year sales push by Japanese motor companies looking to maximise volumes.

A scan of the top five rental company websites indicates that Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subaru and Ford are the brands most mentioned under the SUV tags, with nameplates such as Nissan X-Trail and Dualis, Mitsubishi Pajero and Outlander, Toyota RAV4, Kluger, Prado and LandCruiser, Subaru Forester and Outback, and Ford Territory among those listed.

However, rental companies frequently substitute other vehicles on their books, depending on what they have in their holding yards at the time.

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