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Market Insight: LCV sales may jump car sales

Catching up: Models like the Ford Ranger (left) and Toyota HiLux (below) are helping LCVs to nearly outsell passenger cars in Australia.

Light-commercial vehicles charge up sales ladder to threaten passenger-car volumes


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11 Jan 2021

AUSTRALIA’S love affair with the ute may be another nail in the coffin for the passenger car segment as the burgeoning light-commercial vehicle segment begins to close in on the flagging sales of the traditional car market.


The rise of the LCVs comes less than two years after SUVs leap-frogged passenger car numbers.


VFacts data for the 2020 calendar year shows SUVs have a 49.6 per cent share of the Australian vehicle market, more than double that of passenger cars with 24.2 per cent.


Now the surprise is the rise of LCVs, based predominantly on the dominant ute sales but enhanced by rising workhorse sales after the federal government last year launched a full tax write-off for assets and then announced it would be repeated in the current financial year.


In the 2020 calendar year, LCVs ended with 205,597 sales, down 8.9 per cent on the previous year, but its share of the vehicle market rose to 22.4 per cent, up from 21.2 per cent in 2019.


At the same time, passenger car sales were 222,103 units – only 16,506 more than LCVs – and had a 24.2 per cent stake in the vehicle market, down from 29.7 per cent in 2019. The car sector also had a whopping 29.7 per cent plunge in sales compared with 2019.


SUVs, meanwhile, had the lion’s share of the spoils with 454,701 sales and a 49.6 per cent stake, up from the previous year’s 45.5 per cent share. Its sales were down a comparatively modest 5.9 per cent in a total market that fell 13.7 per cent.


Heading the list as Australia’s most popular vehicle for 2020 is the Toyota HiLux with 45,176 sales, substantially higher than the most popular passenger car for 2020, the Toyota Corolla, with 25,882 sales.


The dominance of the ute market is reflected by the fact the 2020 sales of the entire light-car segment of 20 models was only 1633 units less than the sales of the Ford Ranger 4x4 (37,889) for the same 12 months.


Or that the 27 models that make up the medium car segment posted sales in 2020 of 32,842 which was 1924 vehicles less than Toyota Hilux 4x4 sales.


Even the Toyota Hilux 4x2 work ute range sells nearly as many as 2020’s total 49-model sportscar market, with the ute finding 10,410 buyers while 10,677 people took delivery of a new sportscar.


The tax incentive to buy a new work vehicle during 2020 boosted LCV sales around the middle of the year but except for the heavier-duty vans (in the 2.5-3.5-tonne GVM range), sales were not as high as 2019.


LCV popularity can more be levelled at declining interest in the passenger-car segment.


However, the work place tax incentive did lift sales of the larger vans to 21,213 sales in 2020, up from 18,260 in 2019. The most popular was the Toyota HiAce with 39.6 per cent of the segment (8391 sales) with the Hyundai iLoad second at 3919 sales for an 18.5 per cent share.


The iLoad’s stake fell from the previous year’s 21.5 per cent, mainly on the strength of the new HiAce. The HiAce also scored dominance in the light bus segment, controlling 90.7 per cent of the segment with 2027 sales and completely outclassing the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in second position with its 106 sales or a 4.7 per cent segment share.


The Sprinter did, however, take some wind out of the HiAce after lifting its share in 2020 from 2.9 per cent in 2019, while the HiAce slipped from its 2019 share of 92.8 per cent.


The light van (less than 2.5-tonne GVM and basically the urban delivery business) segment was won by the Volkswagen Caddy with a 71.9 per cent share (1749 sales), up from 62.7 per cent in the previous year on the retirement of the Citroen Berlingo.


The next best-selling light van was the Renault Kangoo with 458 sales and an 18.0 per cent share, down from 28.4 per cent in 2019. The rise of the Caddy in the segment is expected to continue into 2021 and 2022 with the arrival of the next-generation Caddy 5 based on the Golf platform.


While much of the ute attention is on the 4x4 vehicles, the more workhorse-oriented and urban-focused 4x2 vehicles remain strong with 26,640 sales in 2020. Though down on 2019 (32,783 sales), it parallels the movements of the 4x4 models.


No surprise that the Toyota Hilux also dominates the rear-drive ute cluster, with 39.1 per cent of the market (10,410 sales) followed by the Isuzu D-Max with a 16.3 per cent (4343 sales) share, up from 15.6 per cent in 2019 on the introduction of the new-gen model.

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