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Market Insight: Sales figures show brand’s weaknesses

Top seller: The X-Trail is Nissan Australia's biggest seller so far this year, helping ensure the car-maker is the second most popular SUV brand in the country, behind Toyota.

Sales figures reveal dominant players in passenger, LCV and SUV sectors


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6 Jul 2015

FORD is the second most popular automotive brand in Australia for light-commercial vehicles, while Nissan’s solid SUV line-up means it trails only Toyota for overall SUV sales, according to official VFACTS figures released last week.

The data issued by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries highlights the strengths and weaknesses of a number of mainstream brands when broken down by the three main sales segments – passenger, SUV and light commercial.

Given its dominance in the Australian market, Toyota is the top-selling brand in each of the three categories quite comfortably, but it is the manufacturers sitting behind the Japanese giant that provide more interest.

In the first six months of 2015, Australians have purchased 578,427 vehicles and of that total, 260,752 are traditional passenger cars (sedans, wagons, hatchbacks, people-movers and sportscars).

The year-to-date figure represents a 3.1 per cent dip over January-to-June last year, and despite the pressure put on them by SUVs, passenger cars are still the biggest sellers by about 60,000 units.

In overall new-car sales, the top-five YTD are Toyota, Mazda, Holden, Hyundai and Mitsubishi.

Looking at passenger car sales in isolation, Hyundai is the second most popular brand with 34,861 sales, thanks to its strategy of offering two models in a number of volume segments such as light cars (Accent and i20), small cars (i30 and Elantra) and mid-size cars (i40 and Sonata), as well as its solid showing in the people-mover and sub-$80,000 sportscars sectors.

Mazda and Holden slip in behind Hyundai, while Volkswagen is the fifth best-selling passenger-car brand with 20,128 units YTD, largely due to ongoing growth for the Golf and Polo, with three people-movers and three sportscars also playing their part.

German premium brand Mercedes-Benz is sixth for passenger sales on 12,359, with its popular new-generation C-Class mid-sizer driving growth. Models from its compact MFA-platform family including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA coupe and GLA crossover also now make up about half of its volume in the passenger segment.

A resurgent Honda and bullish Kia are in seventh and eighth place respectively, with Ford relegated to ninth spot due to a massive drop-off in interest for the majority of its passenger models, notably the local Falcon (-13.5 per cent), Fiesta light car (-32.2) and run-out Focus (-53.8).

Mitsubishi is in 10th spot despite being the fifth best-seller in overall sales, with its only offerings in the passenger sector the ageing Lancer and the Mirage light hatch and sedan.

BMW, Audi and Subaru all sit ahead of Nissan in passenger sales, with the Japanese brand’s Pulsar (-18.9) and Micra (-38.4) both losing ground this year, while its slow-burning Altima mid-sizer has lifted by 26.4 per cent and the niche 370Z sportscar is up 20.7 per cent.

While it lags behind a number of rival brands for passenger sales, Nissan is Australia’s second-favourite SUV brand so far this year, with 20,184 sales – about 9000 behind Toyota – with positive gains this year for its mid-size X-Trail which is up 44 per cent and trailing only the top-selling Mazda CX-5 in its segment, while the larger US-built Pathfinder has finally fired up in 2015, jumping 40.7 per cent.

In the small SUV segment, the Qashqai sits in third spot behind the segment-leading Hyundai ix35 (soon to be replaced by the larger Tucson) and the Mitsubishi ASX, while its tiny Juke has shifted up a gear this year after a mid-life tweak, lifting by 9.6 per cent to outsell the Ford EcoSport and Suzuki S-Cross.

The instant success of the baby CX-3 crossover has put Mazda in third place for SUV sales, also helped by the CX-5, which at 12,489 units is the country’s favourite SUV.

All-wheel-drive specialist Subaru is fourth thanks to its popular trifecta that includes the XV, Forester and Outback, while the exclusively SUV brand Jeep is sixth.

Mitsubishi sits behind Jeep with its line-up that ranges from the small ASX through to the mid-size Outlander, large Pajero and utilitarian Challenger, while Hyundai’s still-popular ix35 and the growing Santa Fe ensure a seventh placing.

Holden’s ageing Captiva 5 and 7 ranges show no signs of slowing in the sales charts, while its Trax is performing well, despite a 5.7 per cent drop off from the first six months of last year as new rivals from Mazda and Honda interrupt its momentum.

Honda’s smash-hit HR-V is already one of the most popular choices in its segment after less than five months on sale, allowing it to sneak into the top 10, while Ford rounds out the SUV list. The Blue Oval has seen negative growth this year for its Kuga (-27.5 per cent) and locally built Territory (-6.3 per cent), while the tiny EcoSport has lifted by 25.4 per cent.

Ford’s poor showing in the SUV and passenger segment is made up for in the light-commercial market, where its January-to-June haul of 16,061 units is second only to Toyota’s 27,486 registrations.

Since its launch in late 2011, Ford’s Australian-designed and -developed Ranger ute has steadily crept up the sales charts and is now the second-favourite one-tonne ute behind the Toyota HiLux with 14,144 sales YTD, pipping the Mitsubishi Triton which has found 13,709.

Ford’s van range is also on the rise, with its new-generation Transit Custom taking 549 sales so far this year.

Mitsubishi’s popular Triton – now with a new-generation model in showrooms – is keeping the Japanese brand in the top three LCV sellers, while Holden’s Colorado range has sold enough for fourth place.

The Ranger’s cousin, Mazda’s BT-50 is gaining some momentum in 2015, ahead of a facelift arriving later this year, with sales up 7.6 per cent for 4x2 and 3.3 per cent for 4x4 this year, giving the company a fifth placing.

Just 83 units behind Mazda on LCV sales is the small but plucky Isuzu Ute with its D-Max consistently growing year on year since its launch three years ago.

Nissan and its Navara ute are next, followed by Volkswagen which has a wider LCV range encompassing the Amarok ute, as well as the Caddy, which holds a dominant 52 per cent share of the light van sector, and the soon-to-be-replaced Transporter which is the third best-seller in its segment.

Hyundai’s iLoad ensures it is one of the more popular LCV brands, while French car-maker Renault’s van range comprising the Kangoo and Trafic allowed it to slip into 10th spot. It will have a one-tonne utility in its Australian line-up – shared with alliance partner Nissan’s new Navara – before the end of the decade.

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