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People-movers get their groove back

Star performer: Honda's Odyssey arrived in February and has already experienced a 153 per cent boost in sales over last year's January to April result.

Sales of MPVs up following a rash of new, stylish models as large SUVs fall

6 May 2014

PEOPLE-MOVERS are back in vogue in Australia, with the latest VFACTS data showing a marked increase in sales for MPVs following the launch of a number of stylish new offerings in the past 12 months.

Interest in seven- to eight-seat family haulers is on the rise as Australian buyers look for the most practical form of transport to cart kids, pets, luggage, shopping and more. At the same time, trendier options such as large SUVs have taken a hit.

Recently released contenders in the People Movers under $60,000 category such as Honda's fifth-generation Odyssey are on the rise, while stylish newcomers such as the new Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Kia's smaller Cerato-based Rondo are also having an impact on overall sales.

Sales in the People Mover under $60k segment are up by 39 per cent for the first four months of the year compared to the same period last year, while the smaller over $60k category is down by 4.2 per cent for an overall boost of 35 per cent.

April sales alone in the combined people-mover segment are up by 44.3 per cent when compared to the same month in 2012.

Meanwhile, sales of Large SUVs under $70,000 - many of which offer seven-seat options - are down by 4.5 per cent for the first four months of the year. While this blip in sales could be a result of renewed interest in the people-mover segment, it is unlikely to signal a larger trend away from SUVs with the overall SUV market remaining steady with a 0.8 per cent increase.

Large SUVs make up a whopping 9.6 per cent of the overall market share in Australia, while people-movers account for 0.9 per cent.

While people-movers do not typically offer the high ride of an SUV that is favoured by many buyers, they often have more flexible cabins that allow for a number of different seating configurations and greater passenger comfort, particularly in the second and third rows when compared to their SUV counterparts.

With design-driven models such as the Grand C4 Picasso and Rondo on the market, car-makers are proving that people-movers can offer more than just practicality and, increasingly, manufacturers are engineering their MPVs for more car-like ride and handling.

On the back of the new model that arrived in local showrooms in February, the Honda Odyssey is currently leading sales in the segment with 801 units shifted to the end of April, followed by Hyundai's iLoad-based iMax on 635 sales, while the ageing Kia Carnival is still selling strongly in third place with 629 units.

Honda marked a 153 per cent improvement over sales from January to April last year and the iMax recorded a 47.7 per cent boost, but the Carnival, which is set to be replaced in January 2015, was down by 25.7 per cent for the year to date.

The Carnival's kid brother, the stylish Rondo seven-seater, is performing well for Kia, with the latest iteration that went on sale in June last year with the company's now trademark tiger-nose grille receiving an 88.6 per cent boost to 166 sales to the end of April on the back of positive reviews and keen pricing.

French car-maker Citroen's striking and technology-packed Grand C4 Picasso is on the up following its local debut in late February, with a more modest haul of 78 units for the year so far marking a massive 290 per cent leap over last year's result.

Sister company Peugeot's 5008 which is based on the previous-generation C4 Grand Picasso is proving to be a niche model for the brand with 44 sales this year, while Malaysian car-maker Proton's budget-focussed Exora is slightly ahead of it with 53 sales in the same period.

Indian-owned Korean brand SsangYong has boosted its sales in Australia thanks to its new-gen Stavic MPV that has ditched the ugly duckling look of the old model for more appealing styling. The company's local importer, Ateco Automotive has recorded 229 sales of the quirky people-mover since January.

The Toyota Tarago nameplate dates back to 1983 and is still selling well in fourth-generation guise, despite it being one of the oldest vehicles in the segment after going on sale in early 2006.

Hire car companies and fleets still love the Tarago which has sold 332 units so far this year.

Volkswagen's Multivan and Caravelle twins have remained steady with sales of 189 and 38 units respectively, while the Mercedes-Benz Viano and Valente shifted 94 ad 104 units in the same period.

The boost in popularity for seven and eight-seat family haulers is unlikely to abate any time soon, with the arrival of the visually appealing new Kia Carnival scheduled for January 2015, while the new-look Mercedes-Benz V-Class will replace the Viano and Valente when it arrives next year.

The Tarago is now eight years old and counting and while there is no firm date for a replacement, the Japanese giant will likely lob an all-new version at some point in the coming years, while Volkswagen is set to replace the Transporter which forms the basis of the Mutivan and Caravelle at some point next year.

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