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Buyer desire for Aussie cars now 1 in 8: study

Pulling power: A decade ago, 7.3 per cent of Australians had the Falcon at the top of their to-buy list. But by 2013, only 1.7 per cent said they intended to buy the big Ford.

Research shows intention to buy a local car has more than halved over past decade


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7 Mar 2014

THE number of Australian consumers intending to purchase a locally built car during the next four years has more than halved compared to a decade ago, with only one in eight new-car buyers indicating a preference for a home-produced car, according to Roy Morgan Research.

Reinforcing long-term trends that have led to all three remaining car-makers – Toyota, Holden and Ford – deciding to pull out of Australian manufacturing by 2017, Roy Morgan’s latest automotive data provides an insight into the attitude of Australian buyers now that the fate of the local car-making industry has been sealed.

In 2003, when Mitsubishi was also building cars in Australia, Roy Morgan found that more than one in four Australians planning to purchase a new car in the next four years intended to buy one that was manufactured here.

Ten years on, results from the research firm’s comprehensive ‘single source’ surveys across 2013 show that Aussie-made intention had plummeted to around one in eight – about the same proportion of buyers who in 2003 said they specifically wanted a Holden Commodore.

The VF Commodore is now singlehandedly pulling large-car segment sales out of a deep depression, and Roy Morgan’s data shows that the Adelaide-built sedan remains the most popular locally built car in the minds of Australian consumers, albeit with only four per cent of all new-car ‘intenders’ putting the model (or one of its variants) on the top of their to-buy list in 2013.

The Cruze small car, which is struggling in sales terms against mighty imported nameplates such as Mazda3 and Corolla, is at 2.4 per cent in terms of intention to buy, which is enough to place it ahead of Toyota’s Camry (2.1 per cent) for the first time, although Morgan data does not include the hybrid version of Toyota’s mid-size staple in this figure, which tacks on an additional 0.8 per cent of the market.

The plight of Ford’s locally built cars, meanwhile, is plain for all to see with just 1.7 per cent of buyers surveyed during 2013 naming the Ford Falcon as the new car they planned to buy. In 2003, 7.3 per cent of buyers named Falcon or one of its passenger car variants as the vehicle they were after.

The latest industry figures show that Falcon sedan sales have fallen 39 per cent in the first two months of trading this year, while last year’s record-low annual total of 10,610 units was down 24 per cent over 2012.

In 2003, when the intent to buy was so much stronger, Ford sold 73,220 Falcons.

And how many sales did Commodore accumulate back then? More than 86,500. Last year, Holden sold less than 28,000 – even with the acclaimed VF onboard.

The one shining light in the Blue Oval stable, the Territory SUV, is beginning to fade in both the new-vehicle sales reports and the minds of consumers, with Roy Morgan’s latest data showing that only 1.3 per cent of respondents surveyed in 2013 intended to buy the Broadmeadows-built wagon – the model’s lowest result since 2009.

According to Roy Morgan Research, the drop-off in intention to buy Australian-made cars over the past decade is, as the car companies themselves have made clear, largely due to a decline in popularity of the types of vehicle made in this country.

In 2003, more than 26 per cent of buyers in the market were after a model from the large-car segment, well ahead of small cars on 16.5 per cent and compact SUVs on 8.3 per cent.

A decade later, Roy Morgan’s data shows that those buyers intending to purchase a large car have shrunk to 7.6 per cent of the total new-car market, well behind small and medium-sized cars as well as medium and large SUVs.

“Over the last 10 years, Australian car-buying preferences have changed substantially, with the small-car market in Australia now clearly the dominant segment with one in four new-car buyers considering a model from this class,” said Roy Morgan Research group account director (automotive) Jordan Pakes.

“SUVs are also taking share from the once-dominant large-car segment, with more than 20 per cent of buyers now after either a medium or large SUV.

“One important factor influencing shifts in preference is the sheer increase in options for Australians. The number of brands available for purchase has increased by almost 25 per cent since 2003.

“An Australian new-car buyer now chooses from over 350 vehicles.”

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