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New-vehicle sales slide eases in March

Struggle: Sales of Toyota's Aurion large car are down by half on last year.

Glimmer of hope that new-car sales crash may be levelling out emerges in March

VFACTS logo3 Apr 2009

By JAMES STANFORD

AUSTRALIAN new-vehicle sales appear to have stabilised in March, when volumes fell 'just' 17.1 per over the corresponding month last year, according to official VFACTS figures.

The performance was better than in February, when year-on-year sales dropped 21.9 per cent.

However, March was still a bad month for market leader Toyota, which sold 23.4 per cent fewer cars than in March last year, despite heavy discounts for 2008 models.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) said the March decline in new-car sales was in line with expectations.

“Given the impact of the global economic downturn, new-vehicle sales for the first quarter of 2009 are around the level we would expect them to be,” said FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar, who indicated the FCAI was relieved that sales had not dropped more severely.

“This result is certainly down on a year ago, but the extent of the fall in the market appears to have stabilised somewhat in recent months,” he said.

Mr McKellar also said Australian new-car sales had not been hit as hard as some overseas markets.

“Around the world, the automotive industry has been disproportionately affected by the impact of the financial crisis and resultant economic downturn,” he said.

“We can take some comfort from the fact that the Australian new-vehicle market has performed far better than those in almost all other developed economies.”

VFACTS figures for March show Australians bought 15,635 fewer cars than in the same month last year.

And Australians bought 212,970 fewer cars in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year, representing a 19.2 per cent drop.

Top brands
Toyota sold 15,915 fewer cars in the first three months of 2009 compared to the same period last year, representing a 26.4 per cent drop in its volume.

The company today issued a press release about the first quarter-result, but did not mention its sales had declined.

Instead, Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief David Buttner said there was an ‘improved outlook for new car sales’.

He said lower interest rates, lower fuel prices and the federal government’s stimulus payment and business vehicle tax break would boost interest in new cars.

“Business demand is also likely to be underpinned by the government's 30 per cent investment allowance for vehicles ordered by June 30,” he said.

Mr Buttner said Toyota Australia and its dealers had reduced its vehicle stock by almost one-third from the levels being carried at the end of October.

“While new-vehicle sales have certainly come back from the record levels being achieved in the first half of last year, consumers are responding to the value being offered across the board."He said he expected the Australian industry to recover more quickly than other automotive markets.

“Toyota and our dealers are well placed as we head into the second quarter, having adjusted our plans in line with the market realities.

“Fortunately, our local industry is not faced with the fall-off in demand being experienced in other countries.

“As a result, we are very likely to see demand gain pace here ahead of the rest of the world,” he said.

Toyota is still the top-selling brand in Australia with a year-to-date lead of 17,330 units over Holden.

Holden has suffered losses as well, but can take heart that VFACTS figures show it trailed Toyota by 26,374 sales at the end of the first quarter in 2008.

Toyota’s market share for the year now stands at 20.8 per cent, 2.1 per cent down on last year, while Holden has a 2009 share of 12.7 per cent, just 0.1 per cent down on 2008.

 center imageLeft: Hyundai's i30. Below: Subaru Forester.

March sales for Holden were down 18 per cent, which is slightly better than the market's year-to-date 20.3 per cent fall below the same period last year.

Ford is still the third-best-selling brand, with 20,986 for the first three months of the year, but Mazda is close behind with 19,024 sales for the same period.

The Ford March result was 17.8 per cent off the same period last year, while its year-to-date decline was 20.2 per cent.

By comparison, Mazda’s sales were down 19.2 per cent for March and 12.3 per cent down for the quarter.

Ford’s market share has gone from 10 per cent to 9.9 per cent, while Mazda’s has increased from 8.2 per cent to 8.9 per cent in 2009.

Hyundai is going against the trend and is actually growing in the difficult conditions, selling 4907 cars in March, which was 17 per cent up on March 2008 and made it the fifth-best-selling brand in the country.

At the end of the first quarter the VFACTS figures show the South Korean importer has grown its sales by 12.2 per cent, allowing it to increase its market share from 4.3 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Mitsubishi’s March sales were 24.1 per cent down in March, which is worse than its 21.6 per cent first-quarter decrease on last year. This has seen Mitsubishi’s market share drop from 6.3 per cent to 6.1 per cent and it has sold 13,085 cars to the end of March.

Nissan is now the seventh-best-selling brand in Australia, with March sales 19.7 per cent off compared to the same month last year and a decline of 18.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. Its market share stays pegged at 5.9 per cent.

Honda struggled in March, with its sales 23.7 per cent down, giving it a year-to-date average that is 22.1 per cent down compared to 2008 and a share of 5.5 per cent compared to 5.8 per cent last year.

Subaru was up 18.4 per cent in March, but year-to-date it is 10 per cent below last year’s result. This has allowed the Japanese importer to increase its market share from 3.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent.

The best-selling European brand is still Volkswagen, which was only 2.7 per cent off in March despite the run-out of its most popular model, the Golf. This is a better result that its year-to-date average - down 9.6 per cent. VW’s market share has increased, from 3.0 per cent to 3.3 per cent.

The rest of the brands had mixed results, with Audi growing its March sales by 4.6 per cent, which means it is now 5.2 per cent ahead year-to-date to be one of the few brands that are actually up this year.

BMW recorded its strongest March ever with 1450 sales - an increase of 9.7 per cent on March 2008 - but is still 11.1 per cent down at the end of the first quarter.

Despite a bold marketing campaign, Mercedes-Benz sold 12.3 per cent fewer cars last month than it did in March 2008, while its year-to-date average is down 18.4 per cent.

Lexus appears the hardest hit of the luxury players, with sales 34.3 per cent down in March, despite renewing one of its volume-sellers in the RX350 in February. In the first three months of the year, the aspiring brand sold 31.6 per cent fewer cars than in the corresponding period of 2008.

Large cars
The large-car (below $70,000) segment was again one of the hardest hit in March, when it was down a hefty 30.1 per cent, compared with a year-to-date drop of 22.6 per cent.

The Holden Commodore was the best-selling car in the segment, as well as the best-selling car overall, with 3544 sales, representing a 49.3 per cent share of the segment.

This result is down 11.1 per cent on March 2008. Year-to-date, Commodore sales are now 13.3 per cent down.

The Ford Falcon continues to struggle, with sales dipping below the 2000 mark to 1990, representing a segment share of 27.7 per cent.

While the March result was 14.3 per cent down, the Falcon is holding up year-to-date, with sales down by just 1.4 per cent.

Toyota’s Aurion was the biggest loser in March, with sales down by a massive 51.3 per cent, which means a share of just 15.1 per cent. It doesn’t look much better when the sales are averaged out over the first three months of the year, with sales Aurion sales 49.2 per cent down compared to Q1 2008.

Medium cars
The medium segment (below $60,000) was 24.7 per cent down in March and 23 per cent down for the quarter.

The top-selling model was still the Toyota Camry, with 1515 sales representing a 32.2 per cent share - well in front of the Subaru Liberty in second with 773 for the month and a market share of 16.4 per cent.

The third-best-selling car in class was the Subaru Liberty, with 559 for the month and a share of 11.9 per cent.

Small cars
While the small-car class shrunk by 12.5 per cent in March, bringing its year-to-date decline to 14.8 per cent, it is one of the better-performing classes.

Toyota’s Corolla led again with 3007 sales and a market segment share of 17.8 per cent, just ahead of the Mazda3 with 2801 sales and a share of 16.6 per cent.

Hyundai’s i30 took third place with 1503 sales and a share of 8.9 per cent, just in front of the improving Ford Focus, which sold 1458 to grab an 8.6 per cent share of the class.

Light cars
The light-car class (below $25,000) was 10 per cent down in March and 13.4 per cent down for the first four months of the year.

The strongest performer was the Toyota Yaris with 1741 sales and a 17.9 per cent share of the segment. Hyundai had the second-best-selling car in the class, the Getz, which managed 1597 (16.4 per cent share), representing a 13.6 per cent increase over the same month last year.

In a distant third place was the Mazda2, with 979 sales and a share of 10.1 per cent.

Compact SUVs
The compact SUV segment was down 11.5 per cent for the month and 18.4 per cent for the quarter.

Subaru’s Forester was the best-selling model, with 1323 sales and a share of 19.5 per cent, in front of Toyota’s RAV4 with 1024 sales and a 15.1 per cent share.

Coming in third was the Hyundai Tucson, with 978 sales and a share of 14.4 per cent.

Medium SUVs
The medium SUV segment took a 24.5 per cent hit in March, which is exactly the same decline the class has suffered over the first three months of the year.

Toyota’s Prado managed to take the number one spot in the segment with 1072 sales, which was actually a 1.9 per cent improvement over March 2008 and allowed it to take a segment share of 19.2 per cent.

Toyota also took second in the class with the Kluger, which managed 1030 sales for an 18.5 per cent share.

The Ford Territory has been hit hard and Ford sold just 763 in March, which is 41.8 per cent down on March 2009. The VFACTS figures show that the Territory, which receives a facelift from April, is 41.6 per cent down for the first three months of the year.

Large SUVs
The large SUV segment was 37.4 per cent down in March, which is actually better than its first-quarter decline of 43.7 per cent.

Toyota sold 666 LandCruisers for a 71.5 per cent share and Nissan sold 259 Patrols for a 27.8 per cent share, which left a 0.6 per cent share for the Jeep Commander, of which six were sold in March.

Luxury SUVs
Sales of luxury SUVs were down in March, but only by 10 per cent, compared to a 15.8 per cent drop over the first quarter.

BMW’s X5 found 411 buyers for March, giving it a share of 23.7 per cent - ahead of the Lexus RX with 269 and a share of 15.5 per cent.

The Mercedes-Benz ML was third with 162 sales and a 9.3 per cent share.

Vans
Commercial vehicles suffered across the board in March. Vans were down 17.1 per cent for the month and 24.5 per cent for the quarter.

The Toyota Hiace was the best-selling van, with 835 sales and a share of 5.9 per cent - in front of the Mitsubishi Express with 250 sales and a share of 3.1 per cent.

Third place was taken by the relative newcomer, the Hyundai iLoad, with 192 sales and a 10.1 per cent share.

4x2 Utes
The pick-up cab-chassis 4x2 segment was off by 19 per cent in March and 22.2 per cent for the year.

A clear winner was the Toyota HiLux, which managed 1199 sales and a 22.4 per cent share, in front of the Holden Ute with 885 sales and a share of 16.6 per cent.

Ford’s Falcon Ute was a close third with 845 sales and a share of 15.8 per cent.

4x4 Utes
The 4x4 pick-up and cab-chassis segment had a relatively strong March, with sales just 1.2 per cent down on March 2008, while the sales for the first three months of the year are 7.9 per cent down.

A clear winner was the Toyota HiLux, which recorded 2107 sales and a share of 28.5 per cent.

The Nissan Navara just managed to beat the Mitsubishi Triton for second with 1390 sales (18.8 per cent share), compared to 1181 (16 per cent share).

People-movers
People-mover (below $55,000) sales were down by 27.1 per cent in March and are 30.2 per cent down after the first three months of 2009.

The Kia Carnival was again the best-seller with 234 sales and a 28.3 per cent share, while Toyota was second with the Tarago at 183 (22.1 per cent share) and also third with the Avensis at 89 sales (10.8 per cent share).

People-mover sales (above $55,000) were almost non-existent in March, with Chrysler selling 26 Voyagers and Volkswagen shifting 21 Multivans.

Sportscars
Sportscars were 19.2 per cent down in March, but on average for the first quarter they are only down by 6.2 per cent.

The best-selling car that is classified by the FCAI as a sportscar in March was the Mercedes-Benz C-class Sports Coupe, with 113 sales and a share of 15.7 per cent.

Close behind it was the BMW 1 Series Coupe and Convertible, with 125 sales and a 17.3 per cent share, while the Volkswagen Eos was a distant third with 70 sales and a share of 9.7 per cent.

Premium small cars
Sales of the small-car class (above $40,000) dropped 22.1 per cent in March and 24.8 per cent for the quarter.

In a fairly close battle, the Mini Cooper held out with 138 sales (24 per cent share), in front of the Audi A3 with 124 sales (21.6 per cent) and the BMW 1 Series with 122 sales (21.3 per cent share).

Premium medium cars
The medium (above $60,000) class was down 9.2 per cent and down 16.9 per cent for the quarter.

The best-seller for March was the Mercedes-Benz C-class with 554 sales and a considerable 38.9 per cent share, to be in front of the BMW 3 Series with 434 sales and a 30.5 per cent share. Third in class was the Audi A4 with 216 sales and a 15.2 per cent share.

Premium large cars
The large-car (above $70,000) segment is one of the worst performing in 2009, with sales down by 39.7 per cent in March and down 40.3 per cent so far this year.

Mercedes-Benz has the best-seller, the E-class, with 94 sales in March and a 32.2 per cent share, in front of the Audi A6 with 74 sales and a share of 25.3 per cent. Third was the BMW 5 Series with 54 sales and 18.5 per cent.

Upper large cars
The news doesn’t get any better in the upper large (below $100,000) class, which was 38.3 per cent down in March and 48.9 per cent down in the first quarter.

Holden’s Caprice accounted for 138 sales, which corresponded to a 48.8 per cent segment share, ahead of the evergreen Chrysler 300C with 103 sales and a 36.4 per cent share.

Holden’s Statesman is the only other vehicle still on sale (except for two leftover Ford Fairlanes) and only 40 were shifted in March.

Premium upper large cars
The upper large (above $100,000) segment was down 41 per cent in March and 39.6 per cent for the year.

The Mercedes-Benz S-class was the clear winner with 24 sales and a 49 per cent share of the segment, ahead of Bentley with seven sales (14.3 per cent share) and Audi’s A8 with six sales (12.2 per cent).

Premium sportscars
The sportscars (above $80,000) class was not as badly hit as you might expect, with March sales down 16.8 per cent, which is much better than the year-to-date fall of 32.7 per cent.

Winning this class in March was the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Convertible with 155 sales (31.5 per cent share), in front of the Audi TT with 100 sales (20.3 per cent) and the Mercedes-Benz CLK with 88 sales (17.9 per cent share).

The already-small segment that includes sportscars above $200,000 is not standing up so well in the current economic climate and was 51.6 per cent down in March and 52.5 per cent down for the first three months of 2009.

Porsche’s 911 was the top performer with 18 sales (24 per cent share), in front of Maserati with 12 sales (16 per cent) and Aston Martin with nine sales (12 per cent share).

Top 10 makes, March 2009:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 16,608 22%
2 Holden 9188 12.1%
3 Ford 7570 10%
4 Mazda 6116 8.1%
5 Hyundai 4907 6.5%
6 Mitsubishi 4694 6.2%
7 Nissan 4396 5.8%
8 Subaru 3415 4.5%
9 Honda 3349 4.4%
10 Volkswagen 2522 3.3%

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