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SUVs drive 2010 sales boom

Sales success: Subaru's Outback is one of the reasons for the growth of compact SUV sales this year, up 115 per cent year to date.

This year’s new-vehicle sales surge in Australia is led not by cars but SUVs

General News logo3 Aug 2010

AUSTRALIA’S new-vehicle sales surge in 2010, driven by the after-effects of last year’s small business tax break and the return of private buyers to the market in recent months, has been well documented.

Drill deeper into VFACTS, however, and it’s clear that sports utility vehicles – not passenger cars – are the driving force behind the solid 16.7 per cent increase in overall industry sales at the halfway mark of this year.

Total passenger car sales were up 15.8 per cent during the first six months of 2010, which is well ahead of the 5.8 per cent increase in light commercial vehicle sales during the same period – but only about half the increase posted by SUVs (30.8 per cent).

As a proportion of total sales, the passenger car segment actually declined by about half a per cent to 57.1 per cent, while the LCV split shrunk by 1.8 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

Meantime, SUVs soared from accounting for 20 per cent of all sales in mid-2009 to comprising 22.5 per cent now – an increase in market share of about 2.5 per cent.

SUVs remain a long way away from outselling passenger cars in Australia, but a look at sales segments within each sector reveals some trends that continue to help close the gap.

In the past 12 months the compact SUV segment – the largest of Australia’s four SUV segments for a number of years – has overtaken the large-car segment, which was traditionally the largest single vehicle sales segment in Australia.

 center imageLeft: Nissan Dualis. Below: Holden Captiva.

Small cars, with almost 125,000 sales so far this year, remains the biggest segment and has lifted its sales by 21.2 per cent in 2010 – but as a percentage of the total sales pie is up by just 0.9 per cent.

That’s the largest share increase of any passenger car segment in 2010, with light cars increasing their share by 0.2 per cent and people-movers remaining steady, but all other categories falling in share, including medium cars (down by 0.3 per cent), large cars and sportscars (both down 1.0 per cent).

Small cars now account for 23.4 per cent – almost a quarter – of all new vehicles sold in 2010 – while light cars increased to 13.1, large cars declined to just 9.7 per cent and medium cars fell to 7.7 per cent.

Over in SUV land, the compact crossover sales mix posted the most growth of any segment in 2010, increasing by 1.3 per cent to represent 10.4 per cent of all vehicles sold this year.

Put in other terms, compact SUV sales soared by 33.0 per cent this year to about 55,000, while sales of large cars rose by only 5.4 per cent, to about 51,000.

Similarly, more Australians bought medium SUVs this year than medium cars, with about 41,000 mid-size cars sold (up 12.6 per cent) versus about 46,500 mid-size SUVs – up 33.2 per cent, which was the largest sales increase of any segment so far this year.

As a proportion of total sales, medium SUVs now account for 8.7 per cent of all sales – up 1.1 per cent on the same time last year – while the medium car sales mix has dropped by 1.1 per cent to 8.7 per cent.

While 4x4 utes remain steady, 4x2 utes like the Commodore and Falcon Ute now account for just 5.8 per cent of total sales – down from 7.3 per cent on July 31, 2009.

In order of sales, at the halfway mark of 2010 – in which no fewer than 531,168 vehicles have been sold - small cars lead the way on 124,358, followed by light cars (69,755), compact SUVs (55,139), large cars (51,349), 4x4 utes (48,659), medium SUVs (46,446) and medium cars (41,041).

Year-to-date, although Toyota’s RAV4 (up 12.3 per cent YTD) pegged back some of the Subaru’s Forester’s (down 2.0 per cent) lead in the compact SUV race in June and Toyota’s Prado (up 44 per cent) remains the top-selling medium SUV, Holden’s Captiva (up 67 per cent) overhauled Toyota’s Kluger (up 8.9 per cent) for second.

Also up significantly on the back of popular new front-wheel drive variants are the Mazda CX-7 (up 160.3 per cent YTD), Nissan Dualis (up 278.8 per cent) and Hyundai’s new-for-2010 ix35.

Mitsubishi predicts new sub-$30,000 versions of compact SUVs like its own Outlander, which will be available in 2WD guise from next month, to increase from about 24,000 currently (up from 6000 five years ago) to 100,000 in the next five years.

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