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VFACTS: Record March sales driven by imports

Top toff: Mercedes-Benz sold 918 C-Class sedans and wagons in Australia last month in what is believed to be a luxury import car record.

Vehicle sales top 100,000 in March for first time as market hits record pace

7 Apr 2015

AUSTRALIAN vehicle sales last month soared to a March record as buyers swarmed imported new-car showrooms to snap up 105,054 vehicles, up an impressive 8.0 per cent on the same month last year, official VFACTS figures show.

It was the first time vehicle sales had surpassed 100,000 in any month outside of the traditional June end-of-financial year discount feast, and represented the sixth best month on record.

Many of the big importers from Japan and Germany experienced double-digit sales growth, with number-one full-line vehicle importer Mazda having its best month of sales in history, shifting 10,217 vehicles – 11 per cent higher than the corresponding month in 2014.

Luxury vehicle importers had a month to remember, with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi sales up 27, 14 and 15 per cent respectively.

Sales of Mercedes’ new C-Class leapt more than 70 per cent, to 918 units – thought to be a record for an imported luxury car in Australia. As well, Benz dealers found new homes for more than 300 AMG-enhanced high-powered vehicles.

Honda, which has struggled in recent years, came back with a vengeance in March, with sales up a whopping 75.4 per cent to 4042 vehicles, thanks largely to the arrival in showrooms of its new top-seller, the HR-V compact SUV.

But while importers were popping the champagne, local manufacturers Holden and Ford were stuck in reverse gear, with sales plummeting again. Despite heavy advertising campaigns from both companies, Holden managed 8571 sales – down 13 per cent – while Ford’s slumped 14.4 per cent, to 6023.

The two American-owned manufacturers were not helped by Australians turning their backs on locally made vehicles which collectively garnered just 8442 sales for the month – down 9.3 per cent on March last year and continuing the downward spiral of recent years.

Holden’s Commodore (2436) and Cruze (1226) were down 18 and 24 per cent respectively. Ford’s newly facelifted Falcon experienced a small reprieve, with sales up 9.4 per cent, to 701 units, but Falcon Ute and Territory SUV sales retreated.

Holden, a former market leader and long-time runner-up to current dominant player Toyota, was ranked fourth for the month, with Ford down in seventh place behind the likes of Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Year to date, Holden’s year-to-date market share has slipped to less than 9.0 per cent for the first time in memory, while Ford’s has dived to 5.9 per cent – down 1.65 percentage points on the first quarter of 2014.

But as these companies struggle, the Japanese, German and Korean marques are having a field day, putting the Australian new-vehicle market on record pace after three months of 2014.

Because of the big March, year-to-date sales are now tracking 4.2 per cent higher than last year, and barring sudden disasters, should comfortably achieve a million units again this year.

Despite the travails of rival local manufacturers, market leader Toyota continued its dominance by selling 19,082 vehicles in March, up a steady 4.4 per cent.

Its Corolla small car put a lock on the top-selling car position with 4261 sales in March, eclipsing Mazda’s similar-sized Mazda3 (3558).

Toyota again had three vehicles in the top 10, with its evergreen HiLux ute at third (3346) and locally made Camry at eighth (2319).

Of all the big importers, the smallest gain was made by Hyundai which secured a 1.2 per cent rise to 8709 units and third place on the sales ladder behind Toyota and Mazda.

Among the big improvers were Nissan (7138, +18.7 per cent), Mitsubishi (6307, +16.1 per cent) and Volkswagen (5525, +19.8 per cent).

As always, Subaru was steady with a 5.0 per cent sales gain to 4002 vehicles.

Private buyers were again to the fore in March sales, with most of the growth coming from the SUV (+15 per cent) and light-commercial vehicle (+10 per cent) segments.

In particular, the burgeoning small SUV segment boomed to the tune of 24 per cent, with sales supercharged by the arrival of new models including the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber said the popularity of versatile SUVs and light-commercial vehicles shows no signs of slowing down.

“In particular, we saw private purchases of light-commercial vehicles increase significantly in March 2015, with sales up 33.4 per cent,” he said.

“The versatility of these vehicles makes them a popular choice for many Australians, providing the capacity needed for work, leisure and family activities.” Top selling brands March 2015
Brand Sales Variance %
Toyota 19,082 +4.4
Mazda 10,217 +11.0
Hyundai 8709 +1.2
Holden 8571 -13.0
Nissan 7138 +18.7
Mitsubishi 6309 +16.1
Ford 6023 -14.4
Volkswagen 5525 +19.8
Honda 4042 +75.4
Subaru 4002 +5.0
Top selling models March 2015
Model Sales
Toyota Corolla 4261
Mazda3 3558
Toyota HiLux 3346
Mitsubishi Triton 2940
Holden Commodore 2436
Ford Ranger 2424
Mazda CX-5 2344
Toyota Camry 2319
Volkswagen Golf 2116
Hyundai i30 2098

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