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VFACTS: SUV sales hit high note

Still the one: While SUVs boomed last month, Australia’s top model was still the popular Toyota Corolla.

SUVs outsold passenger cars for the first time in Australia last month

VFACTS logo3 Mar 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

UPDATED: 6/03/2017 AUSTRALIAN new-vehicle buyers have once again shown their increasing affection for SUVs, with high-riding wagons outselling traditional passenger cars last month for the first time, according to official VFACTS figures released this week.

In February, 35,497 SUVs were sold in Australia compared with 34,740 passenger cars (sedans, wagons, hatchbacks, people-movers and sportscars), with a difference of just 757 units.

Pundits have predicted that SUVs could overtake passenger car sales Down Under within the next two years, but Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said the February result does not necessarily mean SUVs will be the top choice by the end of the year.

“The steady, demonstrable shift in consumer preference which has been occurring in the past few years has culminated in this February outcome,” he said.

“Of course, this one monthly outcome doesn’t signal a landslide but clearly Australian buyers are attracted by the features and capabilities of new-generation SUVs, and how these types of vehicles suit their needs and lifestyles.” Of the passenger segments, only micro cars and sportscars experienced growth last month when compared with February 2016 as the light, small, medium, large and people-mover segments all slipped.

Overall sales of small and large SUVs dropped 11.0 and 5.7 per cent respectively last month, but medium and upper-large SUVs continued to grow.

A number of models in the sub-$60 medium SUV segment made the top 10 bestsellers list last month, including the Mazda CX-5 in its second-last month before being replaced by the new-generation model, Toyota’s RAV4 and Hyundai’s Tucson, while Nissan’s X-Trail missed a top-10 placing by 66 units.

The overall market took a dive last month, the 89,025 registrations down by 7.7 per cent over February last year, with passenger car sales falling 12.2 per cent, SUVs by 3.7 per cent and light- and heavy-commercial vehicles down 5.6 and 9.7 per cent respectively.

This drop was not as dramatic as it sounds considering February 2016 had unusually high sales and an extra selling day.

Of the top-selling brands, Toyota remained steady with 0.7 per cent growth for the month (to 16,308 units), the Corolla just pipping its HiLux stablemate by six units for the overall top spot.

Mazda dipped only slightly (-2.8 per cent, 9923 units) and held onto second place overall with the Mazda3, CX-5 and baby CX-3 SUV all continuing their solid recent form. It remains unclear if the changeover to the second-generation CX-5 will have an impact on sales when it launches late this month.

Hyundai lost ground by 9.1 per cent last month (to 7001 units), with big drops in its commercial and people-mover range, and double-digit losses for the i30 and Elantra.

Despite a 13.8 per cent downturn compared to February last year, Mitsubishi’s 5758 total for the month was enough to place it ahead of both Holden and Ford, taking fourth spot. In its favour, almost 2000 Tritons found homes and a strong showing for the related Pajero Sport was apparent (752 sales, up 90 per cent).

This result forced Holden back to fifth with a 22.0 per cent dip and 5724 sales, pushing it backwards after a strong January.

The loss of the Australian-built Cruze small car has hit Holden’s sales figures, and while the new Astra is gaining momentum, sales will not really pick up until the arrival this month of automatic versions of the two top-spec variants.

Ford’s Ranger held on to third spot on the sales charts, but the Blue Oval brand overall slid by 14.8 per cent to 5669 units after double-digit percentage losses for all models in its line-up except the Transit and Transit Bus, Ranger 4x4 and Mustang sportscar.

As previously reported, Falcon and Falcon Ute stock is drying up, but the Territory will likely remain on sale until the third quarter.

Volkswagen and Nissan both lost ground – falling 6.2 (to 4618) and 26.1 per cent (to 4425) respectively – but Kia grew by a whopping 36.1 per cent for 4174 sales, buoyed by the popular Cerato and Sportage.

Subaru rounded out the top 10 with 3746 sales, a 5.9 per cent increase, after the new-generation Impreza hit the right note with buyers who snapped up 962 examples last month.

Of the premium brands, Mercedes-Benz again led the way with 3419 sales (+5.7 per cent), just missing out on a top-10 placing, while BMW sales dropped 27.0 per cent to 2006 units but managed to stay ahead of Audi with 1711 sales (-14.7 per cent).

Top 10 selling brands February 2017
Brand Sales Variance %
Toyota 16,308 +0.8
Mazda 9923 -1.1
Hyundai 7001 -6.8
Mitsubishi 5758 -7.3
Holden 5724 -8.9
Ford 5669 -4.8
Volkswagen 4618 -7.0
Nissan 4425 -18.3
Kia 4174 +32.4
Subaru 3746 +11.7
Top 10 selling models February 2017
Model Sales
Toyota Corolla 3392
Toyota HiLux 3386
Mazda3 3143
Ford Ranger 2931
Hyundai i30 2003
Mitsubishi Triton 1990
Mazda CX-5 1933
Toyota RAV4 1726
Hyundai Tucson 1596
Holden Commodore 1566

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