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VFACTS February 2004: Record sales continues

Commodore on the rise: The Holden Commodore outsold its February 2003 tally to retain its position as Australia’s top-selling car.

Toyota and Holden lead the way as the new vehicle market boom continues

4 Mar 2004

AUSTRALIAN motor vehicle sales are continuing their record-breaking run.

The automotive industry has built on a record 2003 and best-ever January sales with a new peak for the month of February.

Figures released this week by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show 75,877 motor vehicles were sold in February – up 13.7 per cent on the same month last year.

Year-to-date sales are already up by 12,769 vehicles or 10.0 per cent over 2003.

Last year the industry sold a record 909,811 cars, trucks and buses, easily surpassing the previous record set in 2002 by 85,502 or 10.4 per cent.

Toyota was the market leader for the month with 15,589 sales, from Holden with 14,579 – both all-time record results for the month - and Ford’s 10,505.

Toyota has already established a 2,856 vehicle sales lead over Holden, riding on the back of powerful sales performances by its SUV lineup – the LandCruiser, Prado and RAV4 all selling more than 1000 units in February.

Overall it won seven VFACTS categories, while Holden, Kia and BMW won two, while Honda and Ford scored one apiece.

Toyota Australia’s executive director of marketing and sales, Dave Buttner, said the result continued the momentum that saw Toyota crowned number one in the sales race in 2003.

“We’ve managed to lift our sales by more than 15 per cent in the first two months of the year, which is no mean feat when you consider that 2003 was a record year for both Toyota and the industry as a whole.” But Toyota faces a challenge further out in the year because it has no significant new launches planned for 2004.

Holden, by contrast, has an all-new Astra and the significantly updated VZ Commodore due this year. Ford could also make a dent in Toyota’s powerful SUV performance with the forthcoming Territory cross-over wagon.

Holden’s sales and marketing executive director Ross McKenzie predicted the strong selling would continue: “The Reserve Bank has chosen to retain its cash rate at 5.25 per cent which continues to give car buyers access to historically low lease purchase arrangements,” he said.

“Consumer confidence has been reported at a nine-year high and unemployment at a 14-year low, making conditions ideal for selling.” Holden’s Commodore continued its traditional dominance of the large car market with 6754 sales compared to the Ford Falcon’s 5901. The Commodore was ahead of its equivalent 2003 result while the Ford was slightly down.

But the good news for Ford was the Falcon ute taking back its class-leading mantle from the Commodore ute for the first time in months.

The news was not good for the fourth local manufacturer, Mitsubishi, struggled for the second consecutive month, finishing only sixth in the monthly tally behind boom importers Nissan Mazda. The locally-built Magna is already 500 sales down compared to the same time last year.

The chief executive of the FCAI, Peter Sturrock, says the February sales result is a clear indication that the industry has geared up its supply to fulfill the record consumer demand.

“While the industry enjoyed record sales last year, it was not fully prepared for the level of success it achieved,” said Mr Sturrock.

“This year the industry - and in particular its major players - have suitably geared their stock levels to meet the consumer demand and the results are shown in an extraordinary boom market,” he said.

Despite that, the FCAI has not revised its forecast for full year sales of 900.000 units upwards – as yet.

Sales of Australian-made cars rose 5.4 per cent to 21,678.

The trend towards Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and booming demand for commercial vehicles continued in February.

While the passenger car market rose 9.6 per cent month-on-month, the SUV market grew 17.8 per cent and the light truck market increased by 25.8 per cent.

Within the SUV market, the SUV Luxury segment was up 91.6 per cent and the SUV medium segment was up 76.6 per cent.

Within the passenger car market, exceptional increases were recorded by the prestige car segment (87.9 per cent) and medium segment (22.8 per cent).

“The remarkable growth in sales of luxury and prestige vehicles and the strength of the commercial vehicle (light truck) market suggest the Australian economy remains very buoyant and consumer confidence is high,” said Mr Sturrock.

“More generally, consumers are responding to the wide range of appealing product currently offered by car makers and the improved value these vehicles represent,” he said.

Other highlights of February results included: * Mazda Australia has revised its retail sales forecast to 55,000 from an initial estimate of 53,000 because of strong demand for the new Mazda3, the Mazda6 and RX-8 sports car. February was a record for the company with 4755 cars sold.

The February result was up 21 per cent on January and 15.2 per cent on the same time last year. Overall Mazda had 6.3 per cent market share.

* Subaru achieved record February sales of 2695 vehicles. The figure is 474 vehicles ahead of the same month last year. It means that Subaru has captured 3.7 per cent of the total vehicle market year-to-date and achieved 18.3 per cent growth.

* Hyundai – a sales powerhouse in Australia in the late 1990s – is on the way back. Compared with 2003, Hyundai’s February sales are up 49 percent while year-to-date, they are up 48 percent, representing a 4.2 percent share versus last year’s 3.1 percent of the market.

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