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Market Insight: Australia, NZ weather car sales storm

Troubled times: Car sales have fallen in most markets while production has been crippled by COVID-19 and chip shortages.

Datium study shows Australasia’s car market is doing OK compared with many countries


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22 Oct 2021

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand have well and truly weathered the COVID-19 storm in terms of car sales, with respective increases of 2.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent between August and September while other markets report negative results.

Car sales figures from Datium Insights for September show most global markets to remain depressed, with some countries down more than 20 per cent compared with the same period of 2019. Datium is using 2019 as a historical marker to avoid the less-accurate, pandemic-ravaged period of 2020.

In its latest report, which takes data from August and September, Datium shows that in North America, Unites States new-car sales are down 6.7 per cent, Mexico has fallen 27.6 per cent and Canada is down 9.5 per cent.

Datium head of product Tanim Ahmed said that in Europe, Germany is now down 17.1 per cent through August 2021, the UK is off 18.5 per cent, Spain is down 26.1 per cent, France fell 17.1 per cent and Italy was down 13.1 per cent.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and New Zealand are both up 2.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively (September data), Japan is down 9.9 per cent and South Korea is up 0.02 per cent.

Car imports into Australia fell in August compared with July, with the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that the import figure was $3.619 billion.

“However, this still represents an increase of $855 million – or up 31 per cent – compared with August 2020,” said Mr Ahmed.

Datium’s research shows imports are now up 16 per cent compared with August 2020 in rolling 12-month figures.

Mr Ahmed said stock supply entering Australia “is picking up pace after months of significant volatility”.

Datium adds that the flow of new vehicle stock into Australia has “largely recovered from COVID, however the majority of sales currently are being diverted to private buyers”.

“With strong demand from businesses and corporations to re-stock their fleets, new car sales in Australia are likely to be strong over the next 12 months.”

But the volume of cars being exported from car plants is a mixed bag.

Datium said that car export volume from the large car manufacturing nations such as South Korea was down 12 per cent through August 2021 while the number of vehicles exported from Japan was up 13 per cent in the same period.

It also showed that the pandemic and the shortage of computer chips hit the UK, cutting exports by 17 per cent through August.

At the same time, German exports fell 25 per cent through September 2021 and, in the US, they were down 17 per cent.

“Indications from September figures suggest car production and export levels around the world are facing obstacles due to chip shortages,” Datium said.

“Despite these challenges demand is proving strong worldwide, spurring strong new-car sales results combined with increasing demand in used cars as well.”

Electric vehicle production and exports have been hit especially hard, particularly as EVs use up to 10 times as many chips in their construction than comparable internal combustion engine vehicles.

EVs have also been hit by shortages in raw materials – especially metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium – which has slowed production.

As an example of how slow EV production can cripple exports, 21.7 per cent of the total number of cars produced in Germany were EVs.

This was directly responsible for the 25 per cent fall in car exports from Germany last month.

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