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VFACTS: Subaru’s Forester snatches the crown

Top of the hill: The compact Subaru Forester was the best-selling SUV in Australia in 2009, felling Toyota for the first time in seven years.

Toyota again dominates SUV sales – but Subaru Forester is top-selling model

8 Jan 2010

IT CAME close last year, but in 2009, Subaru’s Forester finally did it – it pipped Toyota’s flock of best-selling SUVs, including former champions RAV4 and Prado, to become the top-selling SUV model on the Australian market.

In doing so, it became the first non-Toyota to take the SUV crown since Honda’s CR-V threw a spanner in the Toyota machinery in 2002.

Despite the fact that no fewer than three Toyota SUVs outsold the compact Subaru in December, the four-cylinder Forester hung on to beat the next-best SUV, the Prado, 13,753 to 13,180.

However, Toyota will not be too fussed – its powerful legion of SUVs again gave it overall dominance of the segment, selling 46,418 units for a 24.7 per cent share. Second was Subaru with its combined sales of Forester, Outback and Tribeca, giving it 18,690 sales and 9.9 per cent share, just ahead of Nissan with 17,913 units (9.5 per cent) from X-Trail, Dualis and Patrol.

Overall SUV sales were down 3.4 per cent in 2009 at 188,153 vehicles, but that was superior to the passenger car performance, so the SUV net share rose to 22.1 per cent – up 0.8 percentage points – continuing its inexorable rise up the popularity charts.

While Toyota’s share of the SUV class was only slightly down from 2008, its SUV sales volume slipped 11.6 per cent. Subaru, by contrast, was up 3.4 per cent, while Nissan’s SUV volume fell 10.9 per cent.

Holden made a 13.9 per cent gain on the back of its Captiva, but Ford slid 18.8 per cent as its ageing Territory and Escape struggled against newer offerings.

106 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prado, Toyota LandCruiser, BMW X5.

Here is GoAuto’s summary of the SUV market for 2009, by segment:Compact

THE biggest SUV segment was a points win to Subaru, which not only propelled its Forester into number-on place over former champion Toyota RAV4 – 13,753 units to 12,635 – but backed up with a handy cameo from its new Outback (3716 units).

But in a scenario played out in several other market segments in 2009, the really big move came from Hyundai, whose cut-price Tucson – despite its age – cranked up an extra 85.7 per cent in sales to wrap up the 12 months in third spot on 11,405 units.

The biggest loser was Honda’s CR-V, the once dominant small softroader, which suffered a massive 48 per cent sale drop in 12 months, to 5103 units. Once the darling of the suburbs, the CR-V has gone from pushing Toyota off the top of the SUV sales charts with sales of about 12,000 a year to barely getting out of its own way in sixth place.


NO ONE managed to kick sand in Toyota’s face in this class, as its serious off-roader, Prado, and not-so-serious Kluger outgunned all comers to take first and second places again in 2009.

The remarkably consistent and – as of the last quarter of 2009 – newly-refreshed Prado clocked up 13,180 sales, while the Kluger came in with 12,848 sales against its name to give Toyota a whopping 36 per cent share of the segment.

Pretenders to the throne were Holden’s Captiva – which made a 13.9 per cent sales gain to achieve 11,504 sales and third place – while Ford’s locally-made Territory got bogged to the tune of 15.5 per cent, falling to fourth place with 10,884 units.

Overall, medium SUV sales held up well, down just 4.0 per cent.


NOT so healthy were large SUVs, which dived 26 per cent in 2009. No one was immune in the three-vehicle class, which has long been dominated by the king of off-roaders, the Toyota LandCruiser.

In 2009, ‘Cruiser sales were down 24.2 per cent to 7755 units, while second-placed Nissan Patrol slid even more, down 29 per cent to 3089 vehicles.

Jeep’s Commander was not helped by Chrysler’s near-death experience in the US, slumping 41.9 per cent to just 169 units.


DESPITE an 8.3 per cent slip, BMW’s X5 was imperious at the top of the luxury SUV heap, nabbing 15.6 per cent of the niche with 3124 sales.

Lexus’s RX range – boosted by a new model during the year that drove up sales by 13.2 per cent by year’s end – again took the silver medal, with 2607 units.

Newcomers including the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 made a major impact, with 1557 and 1261 sales respectively, but it was the Mercedes-Benz M-class that took the bronze, with 1750 sales.

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