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Market Insight: Few high points in slow sales year

High end: New upper-large SUVs such as the BMW X7 contributed to the segment’s 9.3 per cent growth in 2019, against an overall market that went backwards by 7.8 per cent.

Growth only for upper-large and small SUVs in 2019 as market slides 7.8 per cent


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4 Feb 2020

ONLY two vehicle categories, upper-large SUVs and small SUVs, managed to record year-on-year sales growth in Australia’s new-vehicle market in 2019.


The large flagship SUVs were up 9.3 per cent, with a year-end result of 18,572 units, while small SUVs were just above buoyant with a 0.1 per cent uptick and 130,250 recorded deliveries.


Segments that shrank slower than the overall market decline of 7.8 per cent comprised medium SUVs (-1.6%), utes (-4.6%) and people-movers (-6.1%), while the 7.8 per cent slump in large SUV sales was lineball with the broader market.


The only passenger car segment to beat the market decline was mid-sizers (-7.2%) while all other passenger segments suffered sharp double-digit declines, as did sportscars (-20.8%) and vans (-10.4%).


As usual, the Toyota LandCruiser 200 was by far the top-selling upper-large SUV, achieving 13,802 units and modest growth of 0.9 per cent. In distant second was the Nissan Patrol with 1951 sold (+55%).


Notably, BMW’s luxury X7 managed 608 units since it went on sale in May, meaning it could give Patrol a run for its money in 2020. Similarly, the Audi Q8 newcomer added 494 units to the upper-large SUV mix.


The small SUV segment continued to be led by the Mitsubishi ASX in 2019, of which 20,806 examples were sold (+9.3%). The Mazda CX-3 came next with 14,913 sales (-9.1%). A segment shake-up is underway due to a proliferation of new models such as the Hyundai Venue and Kia Seltos through 2019, which will be added to this month by the Mazda CX-30.


With a total of 203,233 sales, the medium SUV segment overtook utes to become Australia’s largest and suffered only a modest 1.6 per cent decline. It was topped by Mazda’s CX-5, which shifted 25,539 units (-2.4%). The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 that launched in May helped the nameplate to a 9.5 per cent sales surge and 24,260 units, despite unexpectedly popular hybrid variants being hampered by a stop-sale followed by long waiting lists.


Ute sales beat the broader market decline less convincingly than medium SUVs to become the second-largest segment with 201,652 sales overall (-4.6%). The Toyota HiLux was overall top dog with 47,649 sold (-7.8%) while the Ford Ranger (40,960 units, -2.8%) was more popular as a 4x4 but came up distant second as a 4x2.


People-movers were down 6.1 per cent with 12,543 sales in 2019, more of half which were Kia Carnivals (-1.8% to 6493 units). The Honda Odyssey was way behind on 1684 units, down 11.1 per cent.


Sales of the Toyota Camry seriously bucked trends with a 9.8 per cent increase to 16,768 units, accounting for a big chunk of the mid-size segment’s overall result of 42,885 units. Both the Mercedes C-Class (6798 units, -34.5%) and BMW 3 Series (3135 units, +1.8%) outsold Camry’s closest competitor, the Mazda6 (2612 units, -21.5%).


In a segment populated by a diverse mixture of models from jacked-up wagons such as the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, to ute-based off-roaders such as the Isuzu MU-X and seven-seat versions of medium SUVs such as the VW Tiguan Allspace, it is little surprise that large SUVs tracked the overall market decline of 7.8 per cent, ending the year with 122,333 units sold.


Toyota’s evergreen Prado comfortably toped the large SUV charts with 18,335 units (-1.2%) and it was a one-two win for Toyota with the Kluger placing second on 11,317 units (-22.9%).


Hardest hit by the declines were large passenger cars, down 25.1 per cent to 11,531 sales. The segment’s most popular model, Holden’s ZB Commodore, was down 34.6 per cent with 5915 units.


This put it way ahead of the second-placed Kia Stinger on 1773 units (-9.4%) that was followed by the Mercedes-Benz E-Class with 1228 units (-19.8%).


Sportscars, a discretionary heart-over-head spend and therefore a canary in the economic coal mine, were dragged down to 14,712 units overall by the Ford Mustang that was 38.4 per cent in the red. That said, the Mercedes C-Class coupe and convertible made up some lost ground with 2496 sales representing a 64.2 per cent increase.


The light passenger car segment was down 17.3 per cent to 63,055 units, with sales of the top-selling Hyundai Accent lagging 36.4 per cent year-on-year with 9963 units. Just behind the Hyundai with 9853 sales was Toyota’s Yaris bucking the trend with 3.3 per cent growth in a sprint to the finish before its fourth-generation successor launches in May this year.


Australia’s micro car segment (-16.8% to 6505 units) was arguably rescued by popularity of the Kia Picanto that enjoyed a dominating 80.5 per cent share despite this model’s final result being down 2.9 per cent with 5237 reported deliveries.


It was still was way ahead of Mitsubishi’s former segment leader, the Mirage that slid 42.6 per cent to just 592 sales. A comprehensive facelift could reverse the Mirage’s fortunes when it launches here in the second quarter.


Upper-large passenger cars were next hardest hit, the segment largely populated by luxury limousines declining 15 per cent to just 943 units. The segment’s only remaining mainstream model, the Chrysler 300, was up 16.8 per cent with 292 sales. Meanwhile the Mercedes S-Class was a relatively close second with 209 deliveries (-26.4%).


Vans also fared poorly, down 10.4 per cent to 20,925 units with Toyota’s dominant HiAce down 10.6 per cent with 6127 units despite the arrival of an all-new model last May. The second most-popular van, Hyundai’s iLoad, was also down more than 10 per cent with 3919 sold.


Sales of light buses, mostly consisting of the Toyota HiAce, were down 8.5 per cent to 3058 units. The HiAce bus reached 2577 units (-2.4%) while the larger Coaster, also from Toyota, equalled its 2018 result of 282 sales.

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