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Leads, not sales, show health of the industry

Delayed reaction: High demand exists for Kia and Mazda models, although supply constraints mean sales are not yet accurately reflecting this.

Dealer leads data reveals highs, lows and reasons for new car sales in the pandemic


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2 Dec 2021

KIA, Mazda and Ford are the most sought after brands by prospective buyers according to Australian online vehicle sales site PriceMyCar.com.au.


The site publishes data weekly on the leads about brands, showing what Australian buyers are focused on and also trends within the new-vehicle market.


But the data does not correlate with the brands that sell the most. PriceMyCar founder David Lye told GoAuto that new product announcements and supply issues activated buyer enquiries, making them flick through the list of models more than usual.


Kia and Mazda may be the most in demand, but issues such as stock availability have played a large part in this not transferring to sales.


According to lead data collected by the company, during the onslaught of the pandemic in April 2020, it recognised that Kia was becoming one of the most-favoured brands on the Australian market. 


During that time, Kia recorded the highest growth in percentage terms of all the leading brands.


In the past year, the pandemic has periodically interrupted many citizens of most states from physically visiting dealerships. However, vehicle sales have continued to rise.


At the same time, interest from buyers has been sparked by factors including the 2020 tax breaks offered by the federal government to stimulate business capital investment and, as a side line, boost vehicle sales.


This resulted in brands such as Isuzu seeing spikes in leads. In October last year, PriceMyCar said the number of dealer connections for Isuzu vehicles jumped by 34 to a record total of 111 across the second week, signifying week-on-week growth of 44.2 per cent.


“Fast becoming a tradie favourite, the brand was only marginally behind Kia, which posted a small increase in leads to become the leading brand in terms of new car queries,” said a PriceMyCar report.


“Both brands overtook Mazda, which fell from its position atop the charts into third place.”


In November 2020, PriceMyCar saw interest rise ahead of the Christmas holidays in brands such as Kia and Ford, with enquiries up 20.4 per cent and 29.9 per cent respectively over a seven-day period.


As vehicle demand increased and supply became tight – due to factors including the shortage of semiconductors which interrupted production and delays in shipping – PriceMyCar reported some anomalies and some other influences that triggered interest.


“BMW was a surprise packet among the rest of the field,” the company reported in November 2020.


“New car queries relating to the German luxury brand rose 73.6 per cent to a total of 92 for the week, one of the highest performances from the brand we’ve seen to date. 


“That comes amid recent news the auto-maker is revising prices across its line-up for the second time in six months.”


PriceMyCar also noted that November was the first time in 31 months that new car sales grew.


In January, it said that interest in Kia “leapt to levels that we have not seen here at PriceMyCar, further underpinning the brand’s resilience in the Australian new car market”. 


“The number of inbound queries relating to the brand grew by 96 last week, totalling 285.”


Isuzu became popular again in February this year as it delivered its new models that PriceMyCar said appealed to Australians wanting rugged and reliable utes and SUVs that come with a high value proposition.


While Kia has held the top spot on most occasions for the number of leads, Mazda drew close in March with dealer connections up 10 in the week to 270, while for Kia that number decreased 36 to 274.


“Meanwhile, there was a big drop-off for inbound enquiries relating to Ford, although given the longer-term track record, we expect this to be nothing more than a blip,” said PriceMyCar.


“Finally, despite the overall week-on-week reduction for new car enquiries, the breadth of brands actually increased, with a couple of often-unsighted names in Chrysler and GWM making an appearance, even if in low quantity.”


A strengthening economy showed up in data released in April, with record-low borrowing rates and growing household savings, along with positive employment figures that served as a “positive tailwind for consumer spending in the likes of the new car market”.


Hyundai showed strong buyer interest, with new car enquiries soaring from 96 to 174, an increase of more than 80 per cent.


Other movers were Ford and Isuzu while Haval, MG and LDV also saw more traction.


Isuzu did well again in May and in June, pumped by high levels of interest in utes and the tax benefits that remained in place for ABN holders.


PriceMyCar also noticed an uptick in demand for pricing around Honda and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. 


“Both brands are set to move to a fixed-price agency model starting in July, which may explain why some new car buyers could be looking at the brands before changes result in less bargaining power for motorists,” it said.


In October, PriceMyCar said the reopening in NSW would allow motorists to visit showrooms and also activate more interest in regional getaways and holidays. 


“This is another tailwind in favour of new car buying interest, with a large number of Australians likely to holiday at home for the foreseeable future, even if international borders do open in the coming weeks,” it said.


In November, PriceMyCar said new car enquiries hit a multi-month high, surging 17.7 per cent to reach 1871 dealer connections.


“It is the first time we have seen a decisive move higher in terms of new car buying interest since the likes of Victoria and NSW were plunged into extended lockdowns,” it said.


“The sharp uptick has certainly surprised us, especially in light of the leap in unemployment recorded throughout the week (from 4.6 to 5.2 per cent).


“However, the numbers were based on October’s data just before the east coast states came out of lockdown, which means many of these jobs may have been restored over recent weeks.


“If that is the case, we can expect an uplift in consumer sentiment that may prove favourable to new car buying.”

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