Battle lines drawn as sales war heats up

Little is big: Hyundai's i30 has helped to lift the Korean importer within striking distance of third place in the industry, currently held by Ford.

Ford, Hyundai and Mazda in big-stakes wrestle for third place in car sales

VFACTS logo8 Apr 2010

A THREE-WAY battle has emerged for third place in the Australian new-vehicle market after the first quarter of 2010, with Ford, Hyundai and Mazda locked together on about 21,000 units apiece as they strive to join market leader Toyota and second-placed Holden on the podium.

While Toyota is well out on front on 51,684 vehicles and 20.5 per cent share after the first quarter, with Holden in clear air in second place with 33,476 sales and 13.3 per cent share, the war for third place is less clear cut, with fewer than 800 units separating the contenders.

One-time market leader Ford is on 21,970 units, just holding the edge over a fast-rising Hyundai – 21,213 units – and Mazda on 21,114 vehicles.

Hyundai appears to have the momentum, its sales soaring 66.3 per cent so far this year on the back of rises such as a 134.9 per cent sales gain by the i30 small car that has helped to push its market share from 6.0 per cent in the first three months of last year to 8.4 per cent thus far in 2010.

The i30 outsold long-time market leaders Toyota Corolla and Mazda2 for the first time in March, completing an inexorable rise to the top over the past three years.

 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prado, Hyundai i45, Mazda6 and Holden Captiva.

And with two potentially game-changing vehicles – the Indian-made i20 light car and the mid-sized Sonata replacement, the i45 – in the pipeline for release mid-year, Hyundai seems set to make further waves before 2010 is out.

Ford’s year-to-date share has slipped from 9.9 per cent in March 2009 to 8.7 per cent this year. Its sales tally is up 4.7 per cent, but the problem is that overall industry sales are up 18.2 per cent, meaning the Blue Oval has a smaller slice of the cake.

Mazda also has felt the pain of a market share decline, albeit by just 0.55 percentage points, from 8.9 per cent to 8.4 per cent, despite 11 per cent growth in volume.

The battle between Ford, Mazda and Hyundai may well be won or lost at the affordable end of the market, where all three will have new or revised entrants coming this year.

Ford and Mazda will receive facelifted versions of their Fiesta/Mazda2 twins from their new Thai source, including a sedan variant for Mazda, while Hyundai’s i20 will ride to the support of the ageing Hyundai Getz in mid year, providing a two pronged light-car attack for the Korean importer until Getz goes to the big showroom in the sky next year.

With this background, following is GoAuto’s first-quarter wrap-up of the Australian new-vehicle market, by segment:Light cars
So far this year – and most years recently – the light segment has been led by Toyota’s Yaris, from the Getz, Mazda2 and Holden Barina.

With 5579 sales year to date (+14.9 per cent), the Toyota baby is just in front of Getz, on 5480 units (+21.1 per cent), with Holden Barina (3884 vehicles, +51.2 per cent) bringing up third place ahead of the Mazda2 (3306, -5.7 per cent).

Suzuki Swift (3128) has been one of the improvers this year, up 41.2 per cent in March and up 16 per cent YTD.

After a slow start to the year, Honda’s Jazz fought back in March, but still languishes in sixth place (2538, -15.7 per cent), while Ford’s Fiesta (3004, +37 per cent) has showed some pluck on the back of heavy advertising.

Small cars
In March, Hyundai’s i30 breasted the tape first, winning the biggest and increasingly most important segment for the month for the first time, with sales up 144.7 per cent on the corresponding month last year.

But year to date, the Korean car’s three month tally of 8720 units (+134.9 per cent) still trails the marketing leading Mazda3 (10,175 units, +14.1 per cent) and Toyota Corolla (9308, +9.0 per cent).

Holden’s new Cruze edged into fourth position (6418), doubling sales of the Lion’s previous contender Astra from last year and giving the brand much-needed presence in this vital segment, ahead of Mitsubishi’s quiet achiever, the Lancer (5849, +28.2 per cent).

The big loser this year has been Ford’s critically acclaimed Focus, down 41.9 per cent, with its YTD share of the segment sliced in half, from 7.3 per cent last year to 3.7 per cent.

Medium cars
The medium-car segment continues to languish compared with the rest of the industry’s offerings, rising a feeble 7.9 per cent year to date.

Most of that growth has come from Toyota’s new Hybrid Camry, which has added 500-plus units a month to Camry sales (5302 units YTD) to lift the segment leader by 25.8 per cent this year.

Subaru’s new Liberty likewise is in positive territory, jumping into second place by racking up 2084 sales this year – an impressive 54.1 per cent increase.

Mazda’s mid-sized contender, the Mazda6, has been bumped down to third place this year (1895) while it runs out its old model and runs in the new. For now, sales are down 11.4 per cent as Mazda ramps up volumes of the refreshed model.

Honda’s Accord Euro has struggled to find its feet this year, finishing the quarter down 14 per cent, despite a lift in March, to lie fourth on the medium-car sales charts.

By contrast Ford’s Mondeo has lifted handsomely this year, up 47.6 per cent to 1354 units, to take fifth spot.

Above $60k, the Mercedes C-class (1416 units) again did the business against the BMW 3 Series (1280) and Audi A4 (1057).

Large cars
Once the dominant segment in the Australian car industry, the large-car market now contributes less than 10 per cent of industry volume – smaller even than compact SUV sales (10.3 per cent).

This year, large cars sales have grown 12.6 per cent, but, again, that is well short of the overall market.

Sales of Holden’s Commodore (11,364 units) are up 13.9 per cent, helping it to retain its crown as not only the top-selling large car but also Australia’s outright number-one seller year to date.

While Ford’s Falcon (7328) still trails well behind its traditional rival in second place in this segment, the good news for the Blue Oval is that its locally-made big car is fighting back, up 22 per cent so far this year – and with a Series 2 upgrade just around the corner.

Toyota’s other local car, the Aurion, just managed to squeak into the black, up 2.8 per cent to 2798 units, to take third place.

Imported large cars had mixed fortunes, with fourth-placed Honda Accord down a depressing 40.9 per cent to 1853 units for the three months, and Nissan’s Maxima rising dramatically, up no less than 604 per cent from last year’s low base, to 634 units this year.

Above $70k, Mercedes’ new E-class (640 units) out-sold all the rest put together, including the soon-to-be-replaced BMW 5 Series (144) and Audi A6 (123).

Upper large cars
The only segment not to record any rise so far this year, the irrelevant upper large market tanked 17 per cent, with only the government fleet favourite, Holden Caprice, holding its head above water, up 12.5 per cent to 359 units.

Its Statesman stablemate is down 20.9 per cent, to just 121 units in three months, while the only competitor of note, the Chrysler 300C, has slumped even worse, down 51.7 per cent to 116 units.

People-movers: The volumes may be small, but the growth is big in this family bus segment this year.

Up 37.3 per cent over the first three months of 2009, people-mover sales have been lifted by big numbers produced by slick-priced Korean entrants.

Last year’s market leader, the Kia Carnival, continues to hold sway, up 41.7 per cent to 907 units, but it is increasingly coming under attack from Hyundai’s contender, the iMax, which has soared into second place with a 235 per cent year-on-year sales increase to 631 units.

While Honda’s Odyssey has also lifted its game, up 185.8 per cent to 323 units, Toyota’s one-time segment dominator, the Tarago, is flat-lining on 380 units – effectively going backwards in a segment up 37 per cent.

Up to the artificial $80k barrier, BMW’s 1 Series Coupe/Convertible (626 units, +36.7 per cent) owns this segment, outselling its major rivals by almost a factor of two to one.

Next best is Mercedes-Benz’s CLC-class (337, +5.0 per cent), and Kia’s cute but hardly comparable Koup (315 units).

Above $80k, it’s a case of déjà vu, with BMW’s Coupe/Convertible – this time the 3 Series – winning the race on 437 units (-1.8 per cent), from the new E-class Coupe/Convertible (386) and Audi A5 (384, +86 per cent).

In the stratospheric $200k-plus sports region, Porsche’s 101 units (+60 per cent), out-punches Maserati (34, +6.3 per cent) and Ferrari 28, +40 per cent).

Compact SUVs
SUVs are the biggest winners this year, up 34.3 per cent for the first three months.

Of those, sales of the ever-popular compact SUVs are up 35.5 per cent, with Subaru’s Forester again leading the way on 3588 units (+1.8 per cent), from Toyota’s evergreen RAV4 (3113 units, +9.6 per cent) and newly resurgent and refurbished Mazda CX7 (2508, +216 per cent).

A swag of other vehicles in this segment have recorded big gains over last year, some of the notables being Ford Escape (+97.5 per cent), Jeep Patriot (+194 per cent), Kia Sportage (+128 per cent) and Nissan Dualis (+206 per cent).

Medium SUVs
If the growth was big among compact SUVs, it was even bigger in the medium segment, where sales are up an eye-watering 37 per cent.

Toyota’s new warhorse, the Prado, proved there’s life in serious off-roaders against the softroaders, recording its best-ever monthly sales tally in March – 2087 units – to cap off a big first quarter in first position (4425 units, +43.4 per cent).

Its March triumph helped to edge out Holden’s big winner this year, the Captiva, which clocked up 4191 sales (+59.2 per cent), ahead of Toyota’s other contributor, the Kluger (3291, +20.8 per cent).

Ford’s Territory (2503) made a 15.6 per cent sales gain, but it lost share to its faster-growing rivals.

Large SUVs
A two-horse race, this segment again was dominated by Toyota’s perennial LandCruiser (2295 units, up 30 per cent) from Nissan’s Patrol Wagon (812, up 26.3 per cent).

Luxury SUVs
BMW’s once all-dominant X5 has come under attack this year, but its 828 units (-3.7 per cent) was still good enough to hold out Audi’s Q5 (742, +484 per cent) and Lexus’s RX (651, -10 per cent).

In what is shaping up as one of the battles of 2010, Toyota’s Hiace has locked horns with new kid on the block, Hyundai’s iLoad.

Just 100 units separate the pair after the first quarter, with the Hiace putting in the long strides in March to finish the better, 1978 units to 1878. The Hyundai figure represents a 288 per cent increase over last year, when the model was just a pup, while Hiace is up a more modest 7.6 per cent.

A distant third is Volkswagen’s Caddy (597, +48 per cent).

Pick-up/cab-chassis 4x2s
Feeling the full effects of a tax incentive hangover from last year, the traditional ute market is up just 1.7 per cent this year.

Toyota’s long-dominant HiLux still wears the number-one mantle, well outpacing the segment average to increase sales by 22.6 per cent to 3995 units over three months.

Likewise, a sales increase in the order of 33.9 per cent by Holden’s Ute (2932) lifted it to second place, ahead of Ford’s Falcon, which at 2221 units and down 8.4 per cent, is one of several models to feel the heat.

Pick-up/cab-chassis 4x4s
In contrast with the 4x2 variety, all-wheel-drive ute sales managed to beat the market, up 20.8 per cent on 2009.

No prizes for guessing the winner, as Toyota’s HiLux sealed its position as the second-best-selling vehicle in the country by notching 6208 4x4 sales this quarter, up 17.4 per cent.

Nissan’s Navara (4846) snapped up second place with a 38.3 per cent sales lift this year, in front of Holden’s Colorado (3044, +31.9 per cent).

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