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Pandemic still holds court over sales

Bookends: New South Wales has posted the biggest new-vehicle sales falls in six years (down 13.5 per cent) while Tasmania (pictured) is buoyant (up 12.4 per cent).

State-by-state results show patchy sales since 2016, with Tasmania most resilient


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13 Jun 2022

ON THE data alone, it has been a pretty miserable six years for both the new-vehicle customer and the dealer. 


This is pretty ironic considering demand is probably as high as it has ever been, interest rates have been rock bottom (but now poised to inch up) while car build quality, safety, features and ownership are something only dreamt of two decades ago.


We have a choice of 49 brands and base prices from $14,990 (Mitsubishi Mirage ES) to $949,640 (Lamborghini Aventador SVJ), which implies there’s a car for every taste and wallet.


The only deterrent is availability, to which end the pandemic continues to frustrate customers and dealers, showing no favours to location.


All eight Australian states and territories show the damage done and in the six years since 2016, only three have lifted sales (data year-to-date May).


That normally reflects the states with the best economies and citizens with the wealth to float the car industry. But that is not the case here, because the pandemic strikes at the point of vehicle delivery so every territory is in the same boat.


In the YTD data to May, the three states that have their head above water compared with the same five-month period in 2016 are Tasmania, up 12.4 per cent; Western Australia, up 4.8 per cent; and South Australia, up 1.8 per cent.


Double-digit falls were recorded by NSW (down 13.5 per cent); the ACT (down 10.5); and the Northern Territory, down 12.2 per cent.


What this sample data does not show is recovery since the pandemic-stricken year of 2020. In WA, for example, sales in the first five months fell by 25 per cent compared with the same period of 2016. 


Subsequently, WA sales are up in 2022 by 28.7 per cent, reflecting the resilience of the industry, demand by customers and a flow – restricted though it is – of vehicles available for purchase.


The Northern Territory showed the largest hit during 2020 when its five-month sales almost halved.


Oddly, the ACT recorded a rise in sales in 2020, with 9052 units sold in the five months, up 17.8 per cent on 2016 and 26 per cent higher than this year. 


Its 2020 sales were up almost 30 per cent on the same period in 2019, with some increase in government and rental business pushing sales into positive territory.


With customer demand firmly behind it, the industry now only has to hope for better supply to get sals on an upward trend.

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