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VFACTS: Disastrous 2020 ends on a positive note

High five: The Toyota HiLux has proven Australia’s most popular vehicle for the fifth year running.

13.5 per cent December lift gives positive end to COVID-affected 2020 new-car market

6 Jan 2021

AUSTRALIA’S new-vehicle market has slumped to its lowest annual sales result since 2003, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic seeing the national sales tally fall to under one million units for the first time since 2007.


However the year ended with a glimmer of hope, thanks to a second consecutive month of year-on-year growth, with December’s 95,652 new registrations marking a 13.5 per cent uptick over the corresponding period in 2019.


A total of 916,968 vehicles were sold in 2020, marking a 13.7 per cent decline over the 1,062,867 units in 2019, however the slide could have been worse if not for the improvements shown in November and December, with the year-to-date slide at the end of October standing at 18.8 per cent, out to 20.5 per cent at the end of September.


Of 2020 new-car sales, SUVs continued to increase their dominance on the market with 49.6 per cent of overall sales, up from 45.5 per cent in 2019, marking 454,701 units.


Passenger cars were the next most popular with 24.2 per cent share (22,103 units) but the biggest sales drop at 29.7 per cent, while light commercial vehicles (LCVs) had a 22.4 per cent share with 205,597 units.


Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber said 2020 had proved an extremely challenging year, however there were positive signs.


“Along with the rest of Australia, automotive brands and their dealer networks have found the last twelve months an extremely challenging period,” he said.


“The automotive industry in Australia accounts for more than 60,000 employees, with over 4,000 dealerships across the country. The contribution made by these businesses is critically important to the economic wellbeing of communities across Australia.


“It is therefore with great relief that the industry, along with the general economy, is finally noting some positive signs within the market.”


Mr Weber added that the outlook was more positive for the year to come, with the FCAI predicting a return to national sales above one million units.


“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re at the beginning of a positive trend, and this will continue in the first quarter of 2021,” he said.


“All the indications are pretty strong, if you look at the last three months of the year, October was down 1.5 per cent and then we’ve had growth in the last two (months) of 12.4 and 13.5 per cent so what was a terrible year in many ways is coming off the back … the trend is looking good.”


“We think there’s great hope obviously with the vaccine, get COVID under control, address the health issues, the economy will turn around, the fundamentals are good.


“What the government has done at the federal level, and what the states and territories have done has been excellent in terms of the economic support and also in the way they’ve handled the pandemic, so we’re optimistic that it will bounce back, the market, as the economy will, and I think it will certainly be north of where we are now and most probably over a million again, where it should be.”


Mr Weber added that he was confident that the recent increase in sales showed underlying strength and confidence in the market, and was not purely a result of pent-up demand stemming from earlier in the year.


There is also confidence that the lack of international travel – which in 2019 resulted in Australians spending $26 billion more overseas than tourists did in Australia – will lead to more money going towards domestic purchases such as cars.


While 2020 was largely a year of negatives, there were some positives, particularly in the low-emission vehicle space with EV sales (excluding Tesla, which does not report to the FCAI) up 16.2 per cent year-on-year.


Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also increased in sales by 18.2 per cent, while Toyota’s concerted effort to broaden its range of self-charging hybrid offerings played a major part in hybrid sales climbing a massive 93.7 per cent.


Speaking of, Toyota unsurprisingly came out on top as Australia’s best-selling brand with 204,801 combined sales – down only slightly on the 205,766 sold over 2019 – marking a 22.3 per cent share of the market, its highest share since 2008.


Its HiLux pick-up was the country’s most popular vehicle for the fifth year running, with its 45,176 sales besting its primary rival, the Ford Ranger, which finished second on 40,973 sales.


Toyota also had the honour of the best-selling SUV in the land with its RAV4 medium SUV chalking up 38,537 sales (third overall), while the Corolla small car was the most popular passenger car with 25,882 units (fourth overall).


In fact, Toyota vehicles took up five of the top ten slots, with the LandCruiser off-roader (25,142) finishing fifth and the Prado large SUV (18,034) netting ninth place overall.


As mentioned, Toyota’s hybrid performance was a standout, with 26.5 per cent of all Toyota sales made up of hybrids, a stark contrast to 2017 where hybrids represented only 3.5 per cent of sales.


Second place overall belonged to Mazda with 85,640 units (9.3% share), with the CX-5 medium SUV being the brand’s only entrant in the top 10, finishing sixth with 21,979 units.


Third place went to Hyundai with 64,807 sales (7.1% share) despite a 24.7 year-on-year skid, with the trusty i30 small car finishing seventh overall on 20,734 units.


Ford finished fourth on 59,601 units (6.5% share), largely on the back of the aforementioned Ranger which made up more than two-thirds of overall sales for the Blue Oval.


Rounding out the top five was Mitsubishi with 58,335 sales (6.4% share), represented in the top 10 by the venerable Triton pick-up, finishing eighth on 18,136 units.


The last brand with a top-10 car was Kia, which finished sixth overall on 56,076 sales (6.1% share), with its Cerato small car rounding out the top 10 on 17,559 units.


Seventh and eighth position belonged to Volkswagen (39,266 sales, 4.3% share) and Nissan (38,323, 4.2%), with both brands experiencing overall sales drops of more than 20 per cent.


Wrapping up the top 10 brands was Subaru in ninth (31,501, 3.4%), and luxury marque Mercedes-Benz Cars which managed 29,455 sales and a 3.2 per cent share, dipping a relatively small 7.9 per cent year-on-year.


Benz bested its primary luxury rivals and compatriots Audi and BMW, despite both brands actually increasing their sales in 2020 by 1.0 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.


BMW finished the year on 23,520 units (2.6% share), while Audi’s 15,868 sales (1.7% share) were no doubt aided by a flurry of new-model launches throughout the year.


Arguably the greatest success story of the year came from Chinese/British brand MG, which saw a considerable 83.2 per cent sales lift to 15,253 units and a not-insignificant 1.7 per cent market share.


In fact, it was a largely successful year for other Chinese brands too with Haval (3294 sales, +93.1%), Great Wall (1941, +38.5%) and LDV (9323, +43.9%) all thriving in the face of tough economic conditions.


Top 10 Brands 2020

Ranking Brand Sales Share %
1 Toyota 204,801 22.3
2 Mazda 85,640 9.3
3 Hyundai 64,807 7.1
4 Ford 59,601 6.5
5 Mitsubishi 58,335 6.4
6 Kia 56,076 6.1
7 Volkswagen 39,266 4.3
8 Nissan 38,323 4.2
9 Subaru 31,501 3.4
10 Mercedes-Benz Cars 29,455 3.2


Top 10 Models 2020

Ranking Model Sales
1 Toyota HiLux 45,176
2 Ford Ranger 40,973
3 Toyota RAV4 38,537
4 Toyota Corolla 25,882
5 Toyota LandCruiser 25,142
6 Mazda CX-5 21,979
7 Hyundai i30 20,734
8 Mitsubishi Triton 18,136
9 Toyota Prado 18,034
10 Kia Cerato 17,559

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