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VFACTS: Sales dip in August, but only slightly

Downward: Ford's locally made Territory sales took a big hit in August.

Tax changes and pre-election bite into August sales, but silver lining for some

4 Sep 2013

AUSTRALIAN new vehicle registrations experienced a slight drop in August over the corresponding month last year, falling 0.2 per cent to 93,336 units as countdown to the federal election nears its end.

Six of the top-10 brands – Toyota, Holden, Ford, Nissan, Honda and Subaru – took hits, with the Blue Oval brand experiencing among the biggest of the downturns, down 20.2 per cent. Among the big volume players, only Mazda (up 27.8 per cent) and Mitsubishi (up 38.1 per cent) had substantial growth.

As we reported yesterday, the figures suggest some brands are struggling in the wake of proposed government changes to fringe benefits tax (FBT) that make it more expensive for workers to salary sacrifice or lease a vehicle.

Private sales increased 10 per cent over last year, meaning drops in business, government and rental sales of between 10 per cent and 20.5 per cent were responsible for the overall market downturn.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) laid the blame for the sluggish August result squarely at the feet of the FBT announcement, saying that “prior to the government's 16 July FBT change, vehicle sales had increased, on average, by around 4.8 per cent each month, compared to the same periods from 2012”.

“The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries expected last month’s sales to be around 98,000 based on year-to-date trends, without the negative impact of the FBT change,” it said in a statement.

Sales of Australian-made cars took a tumble, down 13.2 per cent, although this figure is above the annual figure of negative 19.9 per cent. Holden’s new VF Commodore continued its strong form from July with August volume of 2809 units, up 15.4 per cent.

Local rival Ford did not fare so well, with its locally made Falcon plumbing record depths to sell 573 units (down 57.6 per cent) and its Territory SUV derivative faring little better, down 38.5 per cent to 834 units.

Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Sinead Phipps told GoAuto this week that the drop was in line with what the car-maker had predicted when the FBT changes were announced in mid-July, and that it was clear buyers were waiting for the result of the federal election before making a buying decision.

The company has already made public its intention to have 12 factory down-days in August and September as a means of cutting production volume. Ford’s decision to pull out of manufacturing in Australia in 2016 is also likely a factor in the ongoing sales decline of its locally built models.

The third member of the local triumvirate, Toyota, dropped 1.3 per cent overall, but its Australian-built Camry and Aurion sedans both netted more buyers than August 2012, up 7.1 per cent and 16.1 per cent respectively on the back of drive-away pricing deals, low-interest finance offers and a heavy advertising campaign.

Hardest hit of all the major volume players was Nissan, which tumbled 26.5 per cent to 4765 units – fewer than Mitsubishi and only 260 more units than Volkswagen.

Every model in the company’s arsenal, with the exception of the niche Almera and Leaf, took a hit, while the new Pulsar small sedan and hatch continued to cool off after a strong start, with the 892 units sold equating to fewer than one-quarter the volume of Mazda’s 3 and Toyota’s Corolla.

In what must be grim reading for the ambitious Japanese company, the Dualis fell 22 per cent over July 2012, while the Micra dropped 57.6 per cent, Navara 4x4 fell 24.6 per cent, and the aging X-Trail dropped 55.9 per cent. GoAuto is awaiting comment from Nissan Australia at the time of publication.

As usual, the overall top-selling brand in August was Toyota with 17,758 sales.

Holden finished second with 10,606 sales (down 5.9 per cent). The Commodore’s solid growth was countered by drops in sales of the locally made Cruze (2369 units, down 9.9 per cent) and Ute (585 sales, down 24.8 per cent), plus the imported Captiva 5 (527 units, down 37.8 per cent) and Barina (619 units, down 49.5 per cent).

In third spot was Mazda with 9825 sales, up nearly 28 per cent. The market’s top full-line importer has less reliance on fleet and novated lease sales than other mainstream brands, and places more emphasis on private sales.

The Mazda3 also took out top spot on the sales charts for the month on the back on strong runout deals ahead of the all-new model due in the coming months.

4188 units were sold, ahead of the yearly leader, Toyota’s Corolla, which recorded 3681 sales.

The CX-5 was again the top-selling SUV, with 1914 sales, while Mazda’s 2 again topped the light-car segment with 1380 sales.

Korean giant Hyundai grew 1.0 per cent to 7808 sales on the back of strong performances from i30 (2552 sales, up 20.1 per cent), ix35 (1692 sales, up 52.0 per cent) and Santa Fe (506 sales, up 94.6 per cent).

Ford was fifth with 6222 sales, followed by Mitsubishi, which continued its strong upward trajectory by growing 38.1 per cent in August (up 25.8 per cent YTD). Nissan finished seventh on 4765 sales, narrowly ahead of Volkswagen with 4505 sales (up 3.7 per cent).

Recently announced Golf recalls appear to have dented sales to only a small degree - if at all - with its light-car staple accounting for 1361 of the brand’s total last month, down 9.6 per cent.

The discontinuation of the superseded GTI and R variants in the lead-up to the launch of the new-generation versions (starting with GTI at the end of the month) is likely the main factor in the sales decrease.

Rounding out the top 10 were Honda (3303 sales, down 14.0 per cent) and Subaru (2881 sales, down 10.1 per cent).

In the premium race, Mercedes-Benz passenger and SUV sales totalled 2473 units on the back of strong A-Class, B-Class and C-Class sales. BMW recorded 1655 units (up 7.6 per cent), while Audi totalled 1301 sales (up 4.3 per cent).

Other big winners included Alfa Romeo (up 321.6 per cent, thanks to the new cut-price Giulietta range), Jaguar (up 41.8 per cent), Jeep (up 27.2 per cent), Porsche (up 26.8 per cent on the back of recent price cuts) and SsangYong (up 20.5 per cent).

Other brands that struggled in August included Citroen (down 25.7 per cent), Dodge (down 21.5 per cent), Great Wall (down 59.1 per cent), Peugeot (down 30.8 per cent), Proton (down 68.1 per cent), Suzuki (down 18.3 per cent) and Volvo Car (down 17.2 per cent).

Top 10 selling brands for August 2013
BrandSalesVariance %
Nissan 4,765-26.5
Top 10 selling models for August 2013
Toyota Corolla3681
Toyota HiLux2884
Holden Commodore2809
Hyundai i302552
Holden Cruze2369
Toyota Camry2281
Mazda CX-51914
Toyota RAV41780
Holden Colorado1717

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