News - VFACTS - Sales 2009 - January
VFACTS Part I: January sales jolt
Mazda3 topples Commodore for the first time as new-car sales stall in January
6 Feb 2009
By IAN PORTER
LAST year, new-vehicle sales rocketed out of the gate with a tally of 82,279 units in January, up 6.9 per cent on the previous January and nearly equalling the December 2007 total of 86,259.
Fast forward a year to January 2009 and the market limped away from the start with just 67,079 registrations. Not only was this 18.5 per cent below the previous January, it also restored a more normal gap to the preceding December.
It was like a switch had been flicked, and the tenor of the market was not the only thing to change.
Certainly, Toyota and GM Holden were still on top, but it has been a while since Toyota’s market share fell sharply while Holden’s rose.
And when was the last time the Mazda3 topped the sales charts? It did so well it pushed Mazda past Ford to third place outright.
Not only that but a strong month for Honda thanks to the Jazz saw the former Formula One contestant leapfrog Nissan and Mitsubishi to take fifth on the industry rankings.
The return of the fleet buyers will change some of these rankings again, but the winds of change could be gathering strength.
Top to bottom: Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon, Honda Jazz, Audi A4, Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota HiLux.
Monthly results:A NEAR-20 per cent fall in demand is dramatic, but when the preceding three months produced falls of 11.4 per cent, 22.2 per cent and 11.3 per cent, there is a case for staying calm, especially as the biggest car buyers – the fleets – were enjoying their annual break in January.
Indeed, Ford argues that the latest January total actually represents a seasonally adjusted sales rate of 920,000 units. Yes, that is well down on 2008’s tally of 1.01 million, but don’t forget the official industry forecast for this year is 880,000 units.
It may be hard to believe, but that makes January better than expected.
And here’s something else that is hard to believe: the sector of the market that fell least was passenger cars. Not only that, but large cars were not the worst performers far from it. Light cars were down 9.4 per cent and then came large cars, down a relatively modest 12.2 per cent.
Small cars were down 15.7 per cent, followed by sports cars, down 23 per cent. It was medium cars which took a hit of 24.4 per cent.
The news was worse in other segments. People-movers slumped 40.5 per cent and the upper large segment – target of the luxury car tax – was down almost 51 per cent.
There was some real carnage in the SUV sectors, too. Sales of medium SUVs (Territory, Kluger) were down 20.3 per cent while the small units were off 23.9 per cent. The LandCruiser and Patrol copped it in the neck as the large SUV segment plunged 45.1 per cent.
Right in line with the market were the light commercial vehicles and, perhaps surprisingly, it was the more expensive all-wheel-drive models that did better.
Overall, imported one-tonners were down 16 per cent, but the 4WD segment was off only 9.6 per cent.
Light carsTHE big news in light cars was that all-conquering Toyota took a major hit in Yaris sales, although the littlest Toyota did retain segment leadership.
Registrations compiled by VFACTS show that Yaris sales were off a shocking 36 per cent, which means Yaris sales plunged four times faster than the segment overall (8.8 per cent).
Many of the 800 sales Toyota missed out on were redistributed to its rivals, and there was a lot of shuffling for minor places. Honda’s Jazz was one of six models to lift sales in January (up 6.1 per cent), ending up within spitting distance of the Yaris (1489 to 1565).
The Jazz jumped from third to second, displacing the Mazda2 which, although it outperformed the segment by easing 7.4 per cent, fell from second to fourth. We should not put too much stress on the rankings, though, because the top contenders were separated by barely 200 units.
The other model to pass the Mazda2 was Hyundai’s Getz, which burst from the rear of the field with a 39 per cent surge as astonishing as the Yaris’ plunge was shocking. And the Getz was not the only Hyundai model to shine in January.
Suzuki continued its steady climb up the charts with a 7 per cent rise in Swift sales to 1003 units while Nissan’s unique Micra stacked on a 19 per cent gain to close in on the Ford Fiesta and Holden Barina.
The appetite for costlier light cars waned in January, with the collective registrations of the Citroen, Fiat, Peugeot and Renault entrants dropping 35 per cent.
Small carsTOYOTA was in the wars in the small car segment, too, but the fallout from a 28 per cent fall in Corolla sales was more obvious: the Mazda3 not only assumed segment leadership, it squeezed past the Holden Commodore by 65 units to become the market’s best-selling vehicle for the month.
The result gave the Mazda3 an 18.8 per cent segment share – a terrific effort for a car that is set to be replaced later this year. By contrast, Corolla’s share plunged from 23.1 per cent in all of ’08 to 16.6 per cent. No other model in the segment took more than 10 per cent share.
One of the big improvers was Mitsubishi’s ever-expanding Lancer range, which now covers an enormous price spectrum from a $21,500 entry level to $72,200 for the Evo X. The Lancer jumped from fifth to third place in the segment (9.8 per cent) with a 15 per cent jump in sales to 1625 units.
This took it past the Ford Focus and Honda Civic, which were down 26 and 32 per cent respectively and relegated to fourth and fifth in what is still the market’s biggest segment (24.8 per cent). The Impreza and Golf both floated up a place in the rankings thanks mainly to a 30 per cent drop in Astra sales, which saw the Holden plunge from sixth to ninth.
The biggest improver among the main contenders was a 25 per cent jump in sales for Hyundai’s i30, which promoted it to eighth place on the small car chart, with a bullet.
Another Korean with a bullet is the striking new Kia Cerato, although its 76 per cent rise in sales was more a reflection of the low levels reached by its predecessor. However, increasing levels of praise in the motoring press and an eye-catching TV ad suggest that the Cerato may be a big gainer this year.
But even that performance was shaded by Peugeot’s 308 which troubled the VFACTS computer by growing more than 1000 per cent (from 23 to 361). Even when 307 and 308 sales are combined, January was up 88 per cent.
As with light cars, the expensive small cars fared poorly, sales falling 32 per cent or more than double the 15 per cent recorded in the main small car segment.
Big losers here were the 1 Series Bimmer (off 59 per cent), the Benz B-class (off 58 per cent) and the Alfa 147 (off 54 per cent).
Audi’s A3 again led the way here, getting away with a sales fall of “only” 17 per cent while the new number two, the Mini Cooper, eased only 16 per cent.
Medium carsTHE CAMRY held on to the medium car lead by falling less than the segment as a whole (18 per cent versus 22 per cent) but Toyota will be keeping a beady eye on the Japan-sourced Honda Accord Euro which defied gravity by posting a 21 per cent rise in sales during the month.
The current strength of the Yen may temper the Euro’s success in coming months, and it could have similar effects on the third and fourth placegetters in January, the readjusted Mazda6 and the Subaru Liberty. If the currencies stay where they are, we may see some specifications downgraded or prices lifted as the year progresses, which may help the Aussie-built Camry lengthen its lead.
Ford’s Mondeo clung grimly to fifth place ahead of Holden’s Korea-sourced Epica, which also now has a diesel option. VW’s Passat and Jetta remained in seventh and eight places, well clear of the rats and mice.
In the mediums over $60,000 Audi’s new A4 shot past Benz’s former segment leader the C-class and BMW’s 3 Series to take the segment lead with 463 sales
Large carsWITH fleets buyers on holidays and retail buyers now worried about the Global Financial Crisis instead of petrol prices, January was always going to be weak for the large cars. The Commodore hung on to its segment lead after selling 122 cars a day in January, just short of the 128 rate it managed a year before.
Ford’s Falcon did much better than a year before, as it had to, lifting sales from 50 to 65 a day with the assistance of an extensive TV campaign highlighting its five-star crash rating and the various awards won by the new car since release.
Given the fact that safety-conscious fleets were on leave, the lift in Falcon sales suggests mums and dads may, in fact, be prepared to drive a large car if it offers maximum safety. But Ford better make hay quickly, because Holden already has a five-star Omega on the road and other models will follow.
The big improver was the Honda Accord , which jumped from 11 a day for the old model to 28 a day with the new one, which has been declared car of the year by one assessment. Toyota’s Aurion had an off month, sales almost halving from the previous January.
Upper LargeHOLDEN still held sway in the big barge class, under and over $100,000 – although it was the Caprice that topped the charts, not the Statesman, which was the big seller over the full 2008 year. In fact, the Statesman fell to third thanks to a stout performance by Chrysler’s ’hood-mobile, the 300C. A tally of just three units may have marked this as the Fairlane’s last appearance on the sales charts.
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