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VFACTS: Premium sales up in down market

Up market: Despite a market which is down sales of luxury cars are up with Mercedes-Benz selling 40 examples of its S-Class in August – double what it sold in July.

August sales figures show premium Euros selling well as other brands’ sales fall

5 Sep 2014

EUROPEAN car-makers continue to buck the downward trend of Australia's new-car market, with the latest sales figures revealing a surge in interest for luxury automotive brands.

VFACTS data released this week shows that with 88,157 new registrations recorded last month, the market was down 5.5 per cent compared with August 2013, with mainstream brands the worst hit.

While Toyota was still the number one brand with 15,638 sales, that figure is down by 11.9 per cent compared to the year before. Mazda’s sales were down by 23.4 per cent to 7529, Holden fell by 18.6 per cent to 8635, Mitsubishi’s 5233 was also a seven per cent fall and Honda continued to slide with a 16.5 per cent dip and 2759 sales.

While a number of volume sellers suffered in the August downturn, sales for most of the European premium brands increased.

Audi sales were up by 21.2 per cent in August at 1577, with the German brand’s A3 leading the way with 366 sales, followed by the popular Q5 on 272, while the flagship A8 sedan sold 18 units – an 800 per cent leap – last month.

Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf said product, price and customer service were the reasons behind the four-ringed brand's consistent sales success.

“In a highly competitive premium car market, we nevertheless believe that Audi has the product range, pricing and design that appeals to Australian consumers.” Ms Burgdorf said.

“We have worked hard over many years to cement the brand's credentials as an innovator and our consistency in the market means we have the momentum needed to drive sustainable sales.

“Our range is second to none and our dealer network is investing heavily in fantastic facilities that offer excellent customer service. It's a complete package from Audi.” BMW also experienced a similar sales increase with 2008 sold, up 21.3 per cent on August 2013.

While the 3 Series is a consistent best-seller for BMW, the biggest increases in sales were seen at the top and bottom of the brand's line-up, with the 7 Series up by 260 per cent with 18 sales and the 1 Series recording a 100 per cent boost for 272. Sales for the X3 mid-sized SUV were up by 42.1 per cent at 287.

Porsche sales grew by 40 per cent in August with 245 sold, thanks in large part to the new Macan compact SUV that was the biggest seller on 114 sales.

If all it takes is a luxury SUV to attain good results that explains Land Rover’ s 40.2 per cent increase in sales with Range Rover Sport up 131 percent with 250 units sold and the Discovery up 47.3 per cent on 190.

Maserati’s overall sales for the month were up 475 per cent with 46 sold, 33 of which were Ghiblis – the latest edition to the Italian brand’s line-up.

Sister company Ferrari announced in May it was capping sales to keep the brand exclusive, but sales for August increased 133 per cent.

Mercedes-Benz’s sales were down 13.1 per cent last month compared to August 2013, but the brand is still 11.8 per cent ahead year-to-date on last year.

Mercedes-Benz Australia Senior manager public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said the fall in sales was due in part to logistical problems with vehicle delivery.

“August was not as good as we wanted,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We missed out on a about 150-170 vehicles in New South Wales and Queensland – we had some logistics issues, we couldn’t get them out of bond, we couldn’t get them transported, we couldn’t get them registered, so we would have done a more.” Mr McCarthy also pointed out that the new C-Class went on sale on August 23 and that of the 488 sales, 422 were the new model.

Despite the overall decrease in August there were substantial sales peaks within Benz’s range.

Forty flagship S-Class models were sold in August, that’s double the number in July, with the S350 BlueTec being the most popular choice. The CLA, which only arrived in July last year and sold 12 in August 2013, recorded 204 sales last month.

Sales for the hulking GL-Class SUV were up by 54.3 per cent for 54 sales, while the ML-Class increased by 38.5 per cent compared to August last year.

Mr MrCarthy said the reason why the premium European brands are still performing well at a time when the market is down is due to a desire for quality and value.

“Our strategy is pretty clear and that is customers are not stupid, they understand value and when times are difficult - let’s face it there a lot of things going on in the world that are distracting people - there is always a flight to quality.

“The competition is really healthy and we have a lot of respect for our competitors. What the four Germans, and I include Porsche, are providing the market with is some real choice and some great value. That is what I think is driving the sales.” Other European brands that saw growth last month included Volvo (+13.5 per cent) and French car-makers Renault (+56.2 per cent) and Citroen (+13.9 per cent).

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