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Market Insight: Toyota Camry to continue mid-size lead

Class rivalry: The Mazda6 sits in second place in the sub-$60,000 category but gets pipped in the overall mid-sized segment by the Mercedes C-Class.

Mid-sized segment benefits from premium boost but Toyota Camry still rules

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Market Insight logo18 May 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

AUSTRALIA’S mid-size passenger car segment is being buoyed by the burgeoning popularity of premium offerings over $60,000, and while sales of more mainstream medium cars are struggling, the ever-popular Toyota Camry is expected to remain the dominant force in the class.

The Camry range is by far the most popular car in the sub-$60,000 mid-size segment on Australian roads, outselling the second best-selling model in the category – the Mazda6 – by a whopping 4492 vehicles in the first four months of this year (6360 compared to 1868 units).

With sales up 2.3 per cent on the same point last year after a strong run-out of the previous model, Toyota’s fleet favourite – which has a commanding 45.1 per cent share of its segment – is bucking the trend of the sub-$60,000 mid-size class, which is down 4.3 per cent year to date after a 14.3 per cent fall last month.

Mazda6 sales are down 10.3 per cent year to date, despite a positive 8.1 per cent result last month, but the gap between it and Subaru’s Liberty has narrowed, with the latter up a massive 268 per cent (to 1339 units) since the new-generation version arrived in January this year.

Volkswagen’s Passat is also bucking the overall segment trend, up 15.3 per cent with 846 units so far this year to be fourth in segment, while the only other vehicles in positive territory are the Nissan Altima (632 units, up 72.7 per cent) and the Skoda Octavia (619, +50.7 per cent).

That leaves a host big-name brands in negative space, such as the Honda Accord (324, -47.4 per cent), the soon-to-be-replaced Kia Optima (311, -44.2 per cent), Holden’s Malibu (253, -59.0 per cent) and Ford’s Mondeo (206, -81.7 per cent), the latter having been caught short on stock before the changeover to the new-generation model late last month.

Hyundai’s i40 is also down with 691 units YTD (-28.8 per cent), although the new Sonata has found 419 homes.

Adding to the segment volatility, challengers of Toyota in the mid-sized passenger segment are rising from some surprising positions.

The consistent rise in popularity of premium cars in Australia is particularly evident in the ‘over $60,000’ section of the mid-size segment, and while they attract a different type of buyer and are in different price brackets, the second highest-selling vehicle in the overall mid-size passenger segment is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The arrival of the new-generation C-Class in August last year has given Mercedes a further shot in the arm, with sales up 102.4 per cent to 3264 units so far in 2015.

Such is the significance of the C-Class’ sales performance that is has elevated the entire mid-size segment growth to 6.0 per cent YTD – a figure that would otherwise indicate an overall reduction in registrations without the contribution of the German brand.

Its CLA-Class sedan also competes in the segment (despite being based on the A-Class small hatch), and has had an impact with 960 sales, up 86.8 per cent over the same period last year.

While much has been said about the shift from mid-size and large sedans and wagons into high-riding SUVs, the lure of a prestige badge is also causing buyers to shell out more money, drawing people away from more mainstream models and brands to Mercedes and its ilk.

But Camry remains king and if Toyota’s local top brass has anything to do with it, do not expect that to change anytime soon.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Camry last week, Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb told GoAuto he expected the revised version to attract new buyers and grow volume even further.

“Due to the greater desirability and the changes we are introducing today, we expect this trend to accelerate and to support our goal, which is to grow Camry sales,” he said.

“There is an imperative that we do it. We have to have a certain volume.

“We are looking to grow both (hybrid and petrol). The sales plan this year is looking about the same as last year for Camry. It will be similar but eventually we would like to grow.”

Mr Cramb cited the model’s dominance and 21-year run as Australia’s favourite mid-sizer as a result of quality and value combined with a careful marketing and promotional campaign.

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