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News - VFACTS - Sales 2009 - April

VFACTS April: Utes fail to fire

Commercial consideration: The car industry’s hopes for increased sales of LCVs like the Toyota HiLux have failed to materialise.

Government business incentives have little effect as market feels the Easter pinch

5 May 2009

HOPES that government business tax incentives would encourage a ute-led recovery of the new vehicle market are proving to be unfounded, with light-commercial vehicle (LCV) sales losing even more ground than passenger cars in April.

While the overall market was down 23.9 per cent in April compared with the same period last year, LCV sales dropped 27.9 per cent, according to VFACTS sales figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

Both the federal government and the FCAI had been confident the 30 per cent tax incentive on business vehicles was the most effective stimulus package to boost car sales, rejecting a push from dealers for a European-style scrappage scheme in the process.

However, the FCAI’s own results show that April was comparatively worse than each of the first three months of 2009, when sales were down 18.5 per cent (January), 21.9 per cent (February) and 17.1 per cent (March).

The April total of 63,965 vehicle sales was 11,685 fewer (15.4 per cent) than in March.

FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said the market remained soft, but the April result was compounded by the timing of the Easter holidays.

“After adjusting for seasonal factors, sales in April appear to be broadly consistent with results of recent months and we remain hopeful that conditions will soon stabilise,” said Mr McKellar.

He said the industry would continue to promote the government’s tax incentive up to June 30, after which the normal depreciation rate of about 10 per cent will apply again.

106 center imageFrom top: Holden Commodore, Hyundai i30 CW, Ford Falcon G6.

Sales year-to-date total 276,935 vehicles, which is down 20.3 per cent compared with the same period last year and therefore still better than most mature overseas markets without scrappage schemes.

Market leader Toyota was the big loser in April, down some 37.5 per cent for the month to leave it down 29.3 per cent for the year.

Toyota’s year-to-date market share is now 20.7 per cent, compared with 23.2 per cent to the end of April 2008, and well short of its full-year expectation of 25 per cent.

At the same time, its major rivals performed reasonably well in April, with Holden in line with the industry trend at 23.1 per cent down and Ford having a better month, down only 17.1 per cent.

Toyota Australia’s losses were felt throughout its model range, including its top-selling Corolla (down 35.9 per cent), but of most concern to the company will be the combined sales of less than 2000 for Camry and Aurion – down 51.9 per cent and 48.9 per cent respectively.

TMCA senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner defended his company’s performance.

“The year-on-year comparison for Toyota is misleading because our sales figures in the same period last year were artificially high,” said Mr Buttner.

“Not only were we surfing the crest of all-time record sales, we also had a huge carry-over of orders each month that was on top of the underlying demand. Even as late as September we were still delivering vehicles ordered in the first half of the year when the economy was booming.

“Since October-November, we have successfully managed our stock position to reflect lower demand, with the result that confidence among our dealers is strong.

“As a result, we have not engaged in distress selling and we have refused to take actions that would savage the resale values of our customers’ vehicles. In fact, in the long-term interests of Toyota’s brand and our customers, we did not pursue fleet deals we believe were struck at unsustainable prices.

“We are now in a strong position to be aggressive but responsible with our merchandising, starting with the Toyota Means Business promotion in May-June.”

Mr Buttner predicted the market would rebound in May and noted that April was affected by Easter, school holidays and Anzac Day falling on a Saturday, which is usually the busiest day of the week for dealersHolden had the top-selling car in April, selling 3117 Commodore sedans and 836 Utes for a total of 3953 on the back of heavy retail action – 930 more than the Ford Falcon (2228 sedans and 795 Utes).

The new FG Falcon was up 18.3 per cent over April 2008, but that was the last month for the previous model.

Ford also enjoyed a good month for the mid-size Mondeo (up 14.6 per cent), the baby Fiesta (up 2.2 per cent) and even the aging Escape (up some 27.7 per cent) but would have been disappointed with the Focus small car (down a whopping 62.0 per cent) and the locally-built Territory SUV, which dropped another 40.8 per cent, despite a recent facelift.

Holden’s rival Captiva SUV also struggled (down 34.9 per cent), as did its small cars (Astra down 28.9 per cent, Barina down 20.2 per cent and Viva down 64.9 per cent), but the lion also lost ground with its LCVs – the Commodore Ute down 34.1 per cent to 836 (beating the Falcon Ute by only 41 units) while the Colorado recorded only 1064 sales compared with 1515 for the previous Rodeo range in April last year.

Behind the top three, Mazda retained its solid fourth place, but lost a little ground in April as run-out supplies of the superseded Mazda3 finally dried-up ahead of the new model launch during the month. Nevertheless, the company still sold 2503 of its small car to beat the Corolla.

Worrying for Mazda, though, were poor results for the Mazda6 (down 35.7 per cent on the back of price rises), CX-9 (down 49.5 per cent), BT-50 LCVs (down 39.3 per cent) and even the little Mazda2 light car, which dropped 25.4 per cent against a segment trend of only 15.1 per cent.

Hyundai continued its brilliant 2009 sales form thanks mainly to the i30, which gained an amazing 50 per cent over the same month last year to be the seventh best-selling model in the country, while the aging Getz continues to hound the Toyota Yaris for light car honours.

Hyundai’s sales are up 12.3 per cent for the year and it is now drawing away from its rivals for fifth-placed brand, Nissan (which held ground for the month) and Mitsubishi (which has yet to replace lost volumes from ceasing local 380 production).

Honda is also struggling this year. In April, it beat Subaru by a single unit – 3000 sales to 2999 – despite another good month for Accord Euro. Honda dropped 30.1 per cent for the month with the worst offender being the Civic (down 54.2 per cent to just 741 units).

Subaru’s 4.7 per cent market share in April was its second-best result ever and was underpinned by increased sales for both the Forester (up 11.9 per cent to be the country’s top-selling SUV) and the Impreza small car (up 5.9 per cent).

Other strong performers in April included Audi (up 6.0 per cent again), Dodge (up 14.6 per cent on small volumes), Fiat (up 1.5 per cent), Kia (up 4.3 per cent with Rio the star performer), Mercedes-Benz (down only 6.5 per cent in a depressed segment thanks to its retail action) and Skoda (up 14.9 per cent, but still on disappointingly low volumes).

Alfa Romeo is crowing about a massive 51.5 per cent sales hike for the month, but remains 31.1 per cent down overall for the year.

While Jaguar also posted an increase – up 39.2 per cent thanks to the XF, but also with a surprise lift from the aging X-Type – the premium importers generally continued to suffer from the combined effects of the increased luxury car tax on top of the general economic downturn.

Lexus continues to add to Toyota’s worries with sales down 52.8 per cent in April (and 38.3 per cent year-to-date), while Chrysler dropped 35 per cent, Citroen dropped 53.3 per cent, Saab dropped 69.8 per cent (to just 38 units) and some of the low-volume sportscar brands Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Maserati really struggled.

Three of the biggest losers for the month, however, were again supposedly mass-market brands SsangYong (down 48.4 per cent) and Proton (down 38 per cent), which between them scored fewer than 200 sales.

Top 10 makes, April 2009:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 13,033 20.4%
2 Holden 7829 12.2%
3 Ford 6836 10.7%
4 Mazda 5121 8.0%
5 Hyundai 4136 6.5%
6 Nissan 3724 5.8%
7 Mitsubishi 3145 4.9%
8 Honda 3000 4.7%
9 Subaru 2999 4.7%
10 Volkswagen 2160 3.4%

Read more:

New-vehicle sales slide eases in March

Toyota retains sales crown, despite hiccup

The Road to Recovery podcast series

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