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VFACTS: December sales slump hits car industry

Winner: Toyota’s HiLux shrugged off problems such as the credit squeeze and lingering drought to smash the Australian pick-up sales record with 51,705 sales in 2018.

Vehicle sales decline accelerates in second half of 2018 as economic woes hit

4 Jan 2019

THE Australian new-vehicle market’s sales slump accelerated in December, with volume diving almost 15 per cent over the same month last year to leave the overall 2018 tally 3.0 per cent short of 2017’s record sales number.
The December decline was double the 7.4 per cent fall in November, sounding warning alarms for the car industry at a time when other economic bellwether segments such as house prices are struggling.
Industry leaders were talking up the positives of the market that managed 1,153,111 sales in the year to the end of December, saying the performance was still one of the highest on record and the 11th time that sales had surpassed the million-unit mark.
But they admit negatives such as the bank credit squeeze, drought, upcoming federal election and lack of wage growth are impacting sales, with consumers becoming more cautious in the second half of 2018.
Long-time market leader Toyota topped the sales charts for the 16th year in succession, recording its best annual tally in six years – 217,061 vehicles. 
Its HiLux pick-up became the nation’s best seller for the third year in succession, scoring 51,705 sales – not only a record for the model but also a new benchmark for workhorse utes.
Toyota also picked up the passenger car crown, with its Corolla (35,320 sales) out-pacing Mazda’s former champion, the Mazda3 (31,065), for the sixth year.
But Mazda had the last laugh in the burgeoning SUV market, with its refurbished CX-5 (26,173) retaining its number one SUV title over Toyota’s soon-to-be-replaced RAV4 (22,165) and Nissan’s X-Trail (21,192).
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said the three per cent decline from the 2017 record sales year reflected a challenging climate across the Australian economy including a slowing housing market, tightening of money lending and the drought.
However, he said the fundamentals of the Australian economy were still strong, pointing to another solid year of car sales in 2019.
The worry for the motor industry is that previously strong segments such as SUVs and light-commercial vehicles joined passenger cars in negative territory in December.
SUV sales were down 7.0 per cent on the corresponding month last year and light-commercial vehicles tumbled 12.5 per cent. The passenger car decline accelerated to 26.3 per cent for the month.
The SUV grip on the market increased in 2018, with the family friendly wagons accounting for 43 per cent of sales compared with passenger cars’ 30.9 per cent.
Market juggernaut Toyota was one of the few mainstream companies to make sales gains in 2017, helping it to outsell its nearest rival, Mazda, by almost two to one. The latter achieved 111,280 sales for the year, down 4.4 per cent.
Hyundai again took the third step on the podium, recording 94,187 sales – a decline of 2.9 per cent.
Mitsubishi came fourth with 84,944 sales – up 5.3 per cent – thanks largely to strong performances by the Triton ute and ASX small SUV.
Ford – purveyor of the nation’s number-two vehicle, the Ranger pick-up (42,144) and the top-selling sportscar, the Mustang, (6412) – came fifth with 69,081 sales, down 11.6 per cent.
Its traditional rival, Holden, slumped from fourth place in 2017 to sixth in 2018 as its sales plummeted 32.7 per cent, to 60,754 units, as it struggled to get to grips with life after manufacturing.
Its market share of 5.3 per cent was its worst since the Holden brand was launched in 1948.
The Holden Commodore – once Australia’s best-selling car – achieved just 9040 sales, down 61.8 per cent, in a market segment that plunged 57.7 per cent in 2018.
Korean importer Kia is now breathing down Holden’s neck, with sales of 58,815 units in 2018, just 1939 behind Holden.
Nissan swam against the market tide to lift its sales by 2.0 percent, to 57,699 units, putting it ahead of Volkswagen (56,620), Honda (51,525) and Subaru (50,051).
Mercedes-Benz again was Australia’s number one luxury car seller, despite a 13.1 per cent decline in sales, mainly due to a compliance problem with the facelifted version of its best-selling C-Class that hamstrung sales severely.
However, C-Class was still comfortably the best-selling luxury car, with 5055 sales, ahead of Mercedes’ own CLA-Series (3086) and BMW’s 3 Series (3079).
BMW came second among the luxury marques with 23,055 sales, down 2.4 per cent, with Audi third on 19,416 sales (-11.8%).

Top 10 selling brands 2018

Ranking Brand Sales Variance %
1 Toyota 217,061 +0.2
2 Mazda 111,280 -4.4
3 Hyundai 94,187 -2.9
4 Mitusbishi 84,944 +5.3
5 Ford 69,081 -11.6
6 Holden 60,754 -32.7
7 Kia 58,815 +7.5
8 Nissan 57,688 +2.0
9 Volkswagen 56,620 -2.4
10 Honda 51,525 +10.0

Top 10 selling models 2018

Ranking Make/Model Sales
1 Toyota HiLux 51,705
2 Ford Ranger 42,144
3 Toyota Corolla 35,320
4 Mazda3 31,065
5 Hyundai i30 28,188
6 Mazda CX-5 26,173
7 Mitsubishi Triton 24,896
8 Toyota RAV4 22,165
9 Nissan X-Trail 21,192
10 Mitsubishi ASX 19,950


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