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Soft holiday sales hit Mitsubishi 380

Large car dilemma: The Mitsubishi 380 was not the only big six to suffer.

January is vacation month and it was reflected in the latest VFACTS industry figures

Mitsubishi logo7 Feb 2006

By NEIL MCDONALD

IT may be early days but Mitsubishi’s new 380 V6 has been caught in a buyer swing away from big sixes, selling just 719 models last month.

The result was below its target of 2500 cars a month and a worry for the Adelaide-based car-maker.

Mitsubishi’s sales slumped 20 per cent from its December figure of 947, but its market share remains steady at 11 per cent against its rivals.

The recently launched newcomer was not alone though, as Ford and Holden also recorded a slow start to the year for their Falcon and Commodore models.

Ford sold 2621 Falcons and Holden 3551 Commodores, according to the latest Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFACTS industry figures for January.

However, the car industry and analysts say a 2006 trend cannot be established based on one month’s result.

January is a customarily slow month because of the holiday season and the low sales figures reflect that.

One bright light on the large car scene was Chrysler’s new 300C, which outsold its Holden Statesman and Ford Fairlane rivals.

The 300C beat locally produced competitors, admittedly off a low base, posting 133 sales last month to claim an 11 per cent lead over nearest rival, the Statesman with 120 sales.

Holden’s Monaro, now officially in its last days, managed 180 sales last month.

Small cars continue to put their imprint on Australia car buyer psyche as purchasers deserted the large car and large SUV segments.

A boom in light car sales pushed the total market to a January record of 70,003 – up 0.4 per cent on the previous record for the month set last year, according to the VFACTS figures.

Light car segment sales totalled 9114, an increase of 35.3 per cent over the same month last year.

Among the small car stars last month were the Hyundai, Toyota and Holden.

The Hyundai Getz managed 1906 sales, Toyota Yaris 1833 and Holden Barina 1398.

The story was similar in the small segment, with the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 continuing to dominate.

Toyota sold 3212 Corollas and Mazda 2630 Mazda3s while the Holden Astra managed 1767.

Ford’s Focus, which has taken some time to hit its straps, has finally started to improved, selling 1333 last month, thanks in part to dealer incentives.

Nissan’s just-launched Tiida managed to find 182 homes compared to the outgoing Pulsar result of 961 sales.

In the medium segment the Japanese domination continued with Toyota selling 1496 four-cylinder Camrys, Mazda managing 1142 Mazda6s and Honda selling 1407 Euro Accords.

Honda’s Odyssey continues to dominate the MPV segment with 337 sold last month while the CR-V managed 1501 sales.

Apart from the CR-V the SUV compact segment ran to form with the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 continuing their strong share, 1019 and 1051 respectively.

In the medium SUV segment the Ford Territory and Toyota Prado were almost lineball with the Territory selling 1104 and Prado 1175.

21 center imageLeft: Chrysler 300C.

Toyota, fresh from its No.1 sales spot last year, was the top-seller last month with 14,383 sales, ahead of Holden on 11,503 and Ford on 7435.

The FCAI’s chief executive, Peter Sturrock, said buyers were continuing to downsize.

“Last year the significant trend was the growth in the small car segment and now it appears the light car segment is benefiting from the same downsizing sentiment among consumers,” he said.

The large car, medium sports utility vehicle and large SUV segments all recording lower sales than a year ago because of a shift in buyer attitudes.

The exceptions were luxury off-roaders, which grew 22.4 per cent, and the pick-up/cab chassis 4x4 segment, which grew 12.8 per cent month-on-month.

Consumer concerns about petrol prices have seen a dramatic increase in the sales of diesel-engined vehicles among private passenger car and SUV buyers – up 190.5 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively.

Mr Sturrock said the buoyant start to the sales year was pleasing but the FCAI’s forecast for 2006 remained at 980,000.

Last year the market set its fourth successive annual sales record – increasing by 3.5 per cent to 988,269.

“We’re off to a good start in 2006 after four years of strong and sustained sales growth,” Mr Sturrock said.

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