Luxo SUVs push back the gloom

Trail blazer: Volvo's XC60 was one of the new prestige SUVs that helped to boost sales in the segment last year.

New metal helps drive prestige off-roaders into unexplored territory

VFACTS logo26 Jan 2010


THEY are big, expensive and usually thirsty, but luxury SUVs found lots of homes in Australia last year.

The hardship and uncertainty brought on by the global financial crisis hit almost every vehicle segment in Australia.

Only three managed to grow compared with 2008: Vans, PU/CC 4x4s (which translates into four-wheel drive cab chassis pick-up utes) and luxury SUVs.

The vans were up only 1.1 per cent, while the workhorse utes grew 3.0 per cent, but luxury SUV sales increased by a healthy 7.0 per cent.

To put this in perspective, VFACTS figures show that in 2009, large cars were down 14.8 per cent, medium car sales slowed 11.7 per cent, small cars slipped 6.3 per cent and light cars were down 8.0 per cent.

While demand the luxury SUVs increased, but the whole SUV segment was down 3.4 per cent on 2008.

Compact SUV sales were off by 1.2 per cent, medium SUV sales were down 4 per cent, while the biggest SUV loser of the year was the large SUV class which dipped by a massive 26 per cent.

 center imageLeft: Audi Q5. Below: Lexus RX350.

For the record, the large SUV category is dominated by the Toyota LandCruiser, which sold 2476 less units for a total of 7755 and the Nissan Patrol which was down 1263 units to 4352.

So that leaves the luxury SUV class.

What were the curious factors that meant this segment could go against the flow? It simply comes down to fresh metal.

The Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 were new in 2009. The new Audi added 1297 sales and the Volvo managed 1261 which meant it came within 18 sales of knocking off the XC90 as the brand’s most popular model.

BMW’s X6, which was introduced in mid-2008 had its first full year of sales and sold a reasonable 573, up from 288 of the previous year.

A new Lexus RX touched down in February, raising sales to 2607, up from 2304 during 2008.

Overwhelmingly, it was the new models and significantly upgraded vehicles that were the stars of the class, but some existing models managed to lift their game.

There was nothing new about the BMW X3, but it picked up an extra 5.4 per cent, the unchanged Mercedes ML also increased its sales by 5.8 per cent and Porsche’s unchanged Cayenne was up 5.2 per cent.

The big losers of the segment for 2009 included the Volkswagen Touareg which dropped 28 per cent or 304 sales to 1066, the Volvo XC70 which slipped 36.7 per cent or 268 sales to 462 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee down 35.8 per cent or 225 sales to 404.

In percentage terms it was the big Lexus LX that had the hardest time in 2009. The Toyota LandCruiser-based four-wheel drive was down a massive 57.9 per cent, or 175 sales, which left it with just 127 for the year.

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