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VFACTS: Luxury cars shine despite May sales gloom

Another crown: Toyota's Corolla hatch and sedan range was the best-selling car in May, just edging out its HiLux stable-mate and arch-rival, the Mazda3.

Mercedes makes top 10 with record May sales as overall market slips 2.3 per cent


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4 Jun 2014

MERCEDES-BENZ last month cracked the Australian new-vehicle sales top 10 for the first time as luxury car marques shrugged off continued weakness in the local market which slipped 2.3 per cent in May.

The German car-maker had its best May sales on record, shifting 2611 units, up 10 per cent on the same month last year, official VFACTS figures show.

Vehicle sales by fellow German luxury brands BMW and Audi rose 8.2 per cent and 15.8 per cent respectively, while Jaguar sales lifted 31.6 per cent and Japanese luxury brand Lexus experienced an 11.7 per cent boost.

The luxury car sales feast was in contrast with general market slow-down on the back of weakened business sales that have impacted light-commercial and passenger vehicle sales.

Japanese brands were hit, with market leader Toyota down 9.2 per cent, and top importer Mazda easing 4.7 per cent.

Some of the bigger losers included Mitsubishi, which lost 17.6 per cent of its sales in May, and Honda that fared the worst with a 30 per cent drop on negative growth for most of its models, with the exception of the just-released new Odyssey (up 153 per cent) and City sedan (up 398.6 per cent).

Other notable sales drops were Volkswagen, which fell 11 per cent to 4918 units, and Kia, which slid by 11.8 per cent to 2444 sales.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) said the industry sales haul of 94,562 units represents a drop of 2226 units on the same month in 2013, making it the fifth month in a row of declining sales.

It is, however, a 17.2 per cent improvement over last month's results, with government sales increasing by 5.9 per cent alongside rentals that were up by 10.8 per cent, while business sales slid by 9.1 per cent.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said each state and territory, with the exception of New South Wales and South Australia, recorded negative growth for the month.

“Looking at year-to-date figures, new-car sales in Western Australia have fallen a significant 10.4 per cent, compared to the same period in 2013,” he said.

The year-to-date total of 441,642 sales is 13,311 units or 2.9 per cent behind the same period last year, but VFACTS figures suggest this still points to another year of million-plus sales come the end of December.

Passenger vehicle sales fell 6.3 per cent for the month and light-commercials dropped 3.6 per cent, while interest in the ever-popular SUV segment climbed 5.4 per cent over April's results.

Toyota maintained its dominance as the market leader with 17,246 sales, which represents a 9.2 per cent slide, but it stayed well ahead of runner up Holden which experienced an 8.7 per cent boost for 9012 sales.

Both Mazda and Ford saw small drops in sales, with Mazda holding on to fourth place despite a 4.7 per cent drop in sales to 7751, while the Blue Oval was down 4.0 per cent in fifth spot with 6950 sales.

Mercedes' record May marks the first time the luxury marque has cracked the top 10 in Australia and in the process, bumped Honda off the list.

It follows a strong month for its smaller model sales, including the A-Class which were up 57.8 per cent to 475 units, as well as the mid-size E-Class sedan and wagon range which rose 89.3 per cent to 142 sales, while coupe and convertible sales grew 144.2 per cent to 105 units.

The solid sales of the E-Class meant that the executive express eclipsed the combined sales of both its key rivals – the BMW 5 Series (80 units) and the Audi A6 (52 units).

Mercedes-Benz senior manager of public relations, product and corporate David McCarthy said that the while company was not aiming for a top 10 finish for the month, the strong result was a pleasant surprise.

“Certainly, we have got pretty ambitious growth goals,” he said. “To be at that level, that is a nice place to be.

“We have a goal and that is to sell every car we have our name against at a profit. If that means that is where we sit, then that is where we sit.” Japanese car-maker Nissan also experienced a slight turn-around in fortunes with a 6.0 per cent increase to 6281 sales and Korean importer Hyundai continued its aggressive push for an increased market share with a 4.7 per cent jump to 8403 sales to remain in third place.

Toyota had the two best-selling models for the month, with the Corolla small car taking top honours with 3871 sales, while the HiLux sold 3313 units to overtake the Mazda3 which found 3291 homes in May.

Despite its spot at the top of the podium in May, the Corolla trails the Mazda3 for the year, with the ‘3’ 947 units ahead on 18,465 compared with 17,518.

Holden's locally-built Commodore got a shot in the arm with a 60.8 per cent boost for 2648 sales and a fourth placing. This result also helped the large car under $70,000 segment to a 21 per cent increase for the month and bucked the trend of Australian-built cars which were down by 6.6 per cent.

Another German doing well is the Volkswagen Golf which has climbed to seventh place with a 46.1 per cent rise for 2301 sales. This is easily the popular European car's best result since its launch in April 2013 and could be partially attributed to a wider range of variants, including the Mark 7 wagon and GTI, now available in Australia.

The only two SUVs to make the top 10 last month were the Mazda CX-5 on 1715 sales and Jeep's top-selling Grand Cherokee rounding out the list with a 202.5 per cent boost to 1694 sales.

While the overall LCV market was down by 3.6 per cent, Ford continues to chase the HiLux with 2317 sales of its locally-developed 4x2 and 4x4 Ranger ute, which again outsold the ageing Mitsubishi Triton that recorded 2254 sales.

The passenger vehicle segments that recorded the largest growth last month included large cars (19.4 per cent) upper large (18.3) thanks in part to the aforementioned Commodore and Mercedes E-Class as well as the Holden Caprice, while people-movers continued their upward trajectory with a 13.7 per cent increase on the back of strong growth from new players such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (700 per cent), Honda Odyssey (153.3 per cent) and SsangYong Stavic (344.4 per cent).

A 43.5 per cent boost in sales of the Mitsubishi ASX as well as continued growth for the Subaru XV gave the small SUV segment a 20.6 per cent sales injection, while large SUVs continued to be popular, with Grand Cherokee leading the charge (1694 sales, up 202 per cent), followed by the second-placed Toyota Prado on 1460 sales as Nissan's Pathfinder lifted by 207.9 per cent to 351 sales.

Micro car sales continued to slide with a 40.6 per cent drop for the month, while medium-sized passenger cars also stalled with a 19.1 per cent drop, although Holden’s Malibu sedan range was a shining light in the segment with 106 sales representing a 324 per cent boost over April's results.

Some of the biggest losers for the month included the Honda Civic which fell 45.5 per cent to 713 sales, dropping behind the Hyundai Elantra sedan on 832 sales.

Mitsubishi Mirage sales tanked by 73 per cent, with 213 units finding homes, while Holden's Barina range fell 41.7 per cent to 495.

Top 10 selling brands May 2014
Rank Brand Sales % Variation
1 Toyota 17,246 -9.2
2 Holden 9012 8.7
3 Hyundai 8403 4.7
4 Mazda 7751 -4.7
5 Ford 6950 -4.0
6 Nissan 6281 6.0
7 Mitsubishi 5780 -17.6
8 Volkswagen 4918 -11.0
9 Subaru 3302 -8.6
10 Mercedes-Benz 2611 10.0
Top 10 selling models May 2014
Rank Model Sales
1 Toyota Corolla 3871
2 Toyota HiLux 3313
3 Mazda3 3291
4 Holden Commodore 2648
5 Hyundai i30 2553
6 Ford Ranger 2317
7 Volkswagen Golf 2301
8 Mitsubishi Triton 2254
9 Mazda CX-5 1715
10 Jeep Grand Cherokee 1694

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