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VFACTS: Market down 4 per cent as confidence wanes

Lone hand: Commodore sales were up 60 per cent last month and singlehandedly propped up the diminishing large-car segment.

Local manufacturing woes, mining slowdown behind February new-car sales fall: FCAI

6 Mar 2014

NEW-VEHICLE registrations in Australia fell 3.8 per cent last month as reduced demand for commercial vehicles and weak business car sales in general reflected the slowdown in the mining sector and uncertainty in manufacturing, according to the motor industry’s peak body.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which is responsible for the VFACTS monthly sales statistics, has highlighted the fact that Australians bought 14.5 per cent (or 2567) fewer light commercial vehicles in February compared to the same month a year ago.

The deepest falls were in the key mining states of Western Australia (-12 per cent) and Queensland (-5.7 per cent), while Victoria (-4.1 per cent) is reeling from the triple whammy of Toyota, Holden and Ford deciding to close down their automotive production and related facilities within the next three years.

Overall, the Australian new-car sales count was 86,818 units last month, 3400 fewer than February 2013, while business and private car sales were down 4.9 and 1.8 per cent respectively.

Holden found 2777 Commodore buyers last month to continue its climb back from 2013 – last month’s tally was up 60 per cent on February last year – but the locally built Cruze small car continued its poor sales form, down 17 per cent to just 1433 units.

To put that into perspective, Mazda sold 3969 examples of its rival Mazda3 to easily head the list of top-selling models, while Toyota’s imported HiLux and Corolla followed on 3348 and 3332 units respectively.

The locally built Camry was up 30 per cent to 1891 units, although Aurion was down 13 per cent to just 321, while Ford, which today announced plans to hire 20 more marketing people this year to spruik its incoming wave of imported models, again found its Aussie-built Falcon languishing, down 37 per cent for the month with just 549 sales.

As GoAuto reported exclusively last month, Ford Australia is preparing to cut its production rate to as low as 80 cars a day from June.

But with sales of just 789 Territory SUVs (down 40 per cent) and 232 Falcon utes (down 29 per cent) also recorded last month, the company could be forced to either cut its build rate further or, in a worst-case scenario, close its operations earlier than the scheduled date of October 2016 if buyers continue to steer clear of its Broadmeadows-built cars.

Ford’s official response is that it continues to monitor the situation and will make decisions based on ongoing conditions in the marketplace.

106 center imageFrom top: Toyota Corolla and HiLux, Hyundai i30, Toyota Camry and Mazda CX-5.

Commenting on the industry’s overall downturn, FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said: “We believe the significant decrease in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria, and the sharp decline in light commercial sales are indicative of the slowdown in mining and uncertainty around manufacturing.”

Worryingly for the industry, sales of SUVs were also down 3.6 per cent overall last month, with declines in not only the high-volume small (-5.5 per cent) and large (-4.2 per cent) segments but the burgeoning city SUV segment as well (-0.6 per cent).

Clearly, industry sales are softening as business and consumer confidence wanes, although certain individual brands are benefiting more than others and passenger-car sales are remaining steady for now.

Overall passenger sales were up 0.7 per cent last month compared to February 2013, although micro-cars, light-sized cars, mainstream mid-size cars, upper-large cars and sportscars all posted negative results.

The all-important small-car segment was up 5.2 per cent – the Hyundai i30 (2372 units) also chiming in as a top-five contender in the market overall behind Mazda3, HiLux, Corolla and Commodore – while the VE Commodore’s influence put the large-car segment into positive territory, up 17.4 per cent.

Despite announcing last month that it was joining Holden and Ford in quitting Australian car manufacturing by 2017, market leader Toyota’s sales were up 1.1 per cent to 16,200 units.

While Toyota’s transition to a national sales and distribution company means Mazda will inevitably lose its status as Australia’s top full-line importer, Mazda Australia continues to defy the softening market and has posted its best February result on record – 9171 sales, up 5.1 per cent.

While Mazda3 topped the small-car segment with a mix of all-new and run-out models, the CX-5 was the best-selling small SUV (1752) and Mazda2 topped the light-car charts (1242).

Of course, Holden is working to improve its position in the market as it, too, heads towards import-only status, and last month experienced growth of 13.2 per cent overall with 8697 sales.

Hyundai was in fourth, up 4 per cent for the month with 7802 sales, ahead of Ford which managed only 6287 sales overall, down 5 per cent over February 2013.

Other full-line top-10 brands are struggling, too, with Mitsubishi down 22 per cent for the month (4683 units) and Nissan down a whopping 46 per cent (4458).

Volkswagen was up 4.2 per cent (4376) – tellingly close to both Nissan and Mitsubishi – while Subaru held steady with 0.5 per cent growth (3121) and Honda found its way back in to the top-10 table, albeit with February sales that were down 31 per cent to just 2662 sales.

Kia was up 8.5 per cent for the month (2391), but it was not quite enough to hang on to 10th position.

The leading premium brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi all recorded useful growth for the month – Mercedes the best of the lot with a 26 per cent rise – while Porsche was up 52 per cent.

The Fiat Chrysler Group brands continued on their merry way, and Renault was up 55.5 per cent, while a number of other brands turned in negative results including Peugeot (-31.5 per cent), Suzuki (-29 per cent) and Skoda (-18 per cent).

Top 10 selling brands February 2014
RankBrandSales% Variation
Top 10 selling models February 2014
2Toyota HiLux3348
3Toyota Corolla3332
4Holden Commodore2777
5Hyundai i302372
6Ford Ranger1901
7Toyota Camry1891
8Volkswagen Golf1780
9Mazda CX-51752
10Toyota RAV41614

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