Toyota retains sales crown, despite hiccup

Problematic: Sales of Toyota's Aurion were down 47.7 per cent in February.

Car sales down in February, but Toyota expects its fortunes to lift

VFACTS logo6 Mar 2009

TOYOTA has retained its place at the top of the Australian new-car market after the first two months of 2009, but the global downturn has affected Toyota’s local arm, with sales down 31.1 per cent against a total market decline of 21.9 per cent.

In the first two months of the year, Toyota captured 20.2 per cent of local new car sales according to official VFACTS data, compared with 22.4 per cent in the first two months of 2008 and 23.6 per cent for the full year.

The big winners in the Australian sales race so far in 2009 have been Mazda and Hyundai, which have both lifted their market share considerably, putting Mazda (9.4 per cent) a close fourth behind Ford and Hyundai (5.7 per cent) a threatening eighth just behind Honda (6.2 per cent), Mitsubishi (6.1 per cent) and Nissan (6.0 per cent).

Holden and Ford have dropped marginally on their share of a year ago – to 13.0 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively – having dropped around 21.4 per cent in sales volume, which is only marginally more than the industry average.

Toyota Australia’s generally optimistic sales and marketing chief David Buttner has downgraded his 2009 market forecast from 900,000-plus just two months ago to “between 850,000 and 900,000”, which is more in line with the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries estimate of 880,000 units.

However, Mr Buttner remains upbeat about the state of the Australian market and points out that the overall decline is lower than other overseas markets, and that February sales were the sixth-best on record for the month.

“I believe the Australian car market is holding up very well in the current tougher trading conditions,” he said.

“When analysing this year’s market, it should be remembered that all-time records were being set during the first half of 2008 before the global financial crisis.

“Toyota expects its own position to improve during March and beyond.”

 center imageFrom top: Ford Fiesta, Dodge Nitro and Hyundai Getz.

With a market down 21.9 per cent for the month, there were again plenty of big negative results among the brands, most notably SsangYong (down 64.4 per cent), Hummer (down 56.5 per cent), Alfa Romeo (down 56.0 per cent), Porsche (down 50.7 per cent), Proton (down 47.4 per cent), Jeep (down 40.7 per cent), Volvo (down 36.3 per cent), Citroen (down 35.6 per cent) and Land Rover (down 34.1 per cent).

Saab is a mere shadow of its former self – down 71.6 per cent to just 38 units in February – while some of the smaller brands barely bothered the scorers. Rolls-Royce scored a duck while Aston Martin (4), Bentley (2), Ferrari (7), Lamborghini (2) and Lotus (2) were down about half and failed to make double figures.

Good new stories were harder to come by, of course, but Hyundai’s 3.5 per cent gain was notable on a high base while positive results were also scored by Skoda (up 7.1 per cent) and Fiat (up 1.9 per cent).

Audi’s 5.4 per cent rise in the premium segment was almost gravity defying, and Mercedes-Benz scored a 2.0 per cent increase through its stocktake sale, but Jaguar racked up an incredible 22.0 per cent increase thanks to the arrival of the XF, its new volume seller.

But Dodge scored the best result of the month with an incredible 57.5 per cent increase to 356 units, with most of the gain coming from the Nitro, which rose 76.7 per cent from 129 to 228 units on the back of its big “yes we can” retail campaign (proving again the magic of the Obama touch).

Kia, Mazda and Renault performed well ahead of the market, but were down compared to last February.

Toyota’s most problematic model is the locally produced Aurion V6, with sales down 47.7 per cent in both January and February despite heavy sales action – worse than the relatively good YTD results for large-car rivals Holden Commodore (down 14.5 per cent) and Ford Falcon (down 5.3 per cent).

Camry performed better for Altona with sales down “only” 13.2 per cent YTD, but Toyota’s most economical models are well-down this year despite a supposed trend to smaller cars.

Corolla is down 31.1 per cent YTD and has been beaten in both months by the Mazda3 for Small car honours, while in the Light segment the Yaris (which pounded the opposition last year) is down 33.9 per cent and, although retaining YTD segment leadership, was beaten in February by the Hyundai Getz.

Getz has been one of Hyundai’s stand-out performers in its resurgence, with sales up 13.7 per cent in the first two months of the year, along with the i30 small car, which is up 50.8 per cent YTD and in February crashed through the 1000 mark for the first time with 1234 sales (up some 79.6 per cent on February 2008).

Nevertheless, the Small segment was again dominated in February by the Mazda3 (which continues to astound in run-out mode, up 5.8 per cent for the month) and Corolla, with Mitsubishi’s Lancer hanging on for third place while Honda’s Civic dropped out of the race with a massive 59.8 per cent drop in February.

Ford’s bid to improve market share with its smaller cars had mixed results in February with the Fiesta improving 10.4 per cent to 798 but Focus sales dropped 34.9 per cent to 853. Both were beaten by their Holden rivals, despite a 34.4 per cent drop for Barina.

Mondeo was down in line with the industry average, but Holden’s Epica dropped 53.0 per cent in the Medium segment, which was easily won by Camry, with Mazda6 turning the tables on the Honda Accord Euro after being beaten in January (but staying ahead YTD).

Sales of Honda’s full-size V6 Accord are more than double the same period last year and, with Euro being up 41.6 per cent in February, it proves that winning awards does translate to the showroom.

Large car sales this year are in line with the industry fall, having already taken a tumble before the general decline, but both Commodore (3376 plus 649 utes) and Falcon (2386 plus 1057 utes) were down on January.

Ford’s decision to abandon its long-wheelbase models looks wise in hindsight looking at Holden’s combined Statesman/Caprice sales, which totalled 165 in February compared to 416 only a year ago.

With Toyota’s Tarago falling away further, the Kia Carnival is the undisputed king of the People Mover segment while BMW dominates the sports car market with its 1 Series and 3 Series Coupe and Convertible models.

However, BMW would be concerned with the overall performance of the 3 Series range, with the sports models down 34.9 per cent in February and the sedan range down 33.4 per cent and handing bragging rights to the Mercedes-Benz C-class, which lifted 34.7 per cent on the back of the company’s big retail action.

Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) sales saw a general shift away from 4x4 variants to 4x2 – a trend that was oddly bucked by the segment-leading Toyota HiLux – and the Mitsubishi Triton and Mazda BT-50 both recorded higher sales than the same month last year.

SUV sales again took the biggest hit in February – down 25.2 per cent in February compared to 19.9 per cent for passenger cars and 21.5 per cent for LCVs – but, while logic prevailed with Large being most adversely affected from Medium and Compact, the Luxury segment fared best (though mainly because of new arrivals like the BMW X6 and Volvo XC60).

Rental companies were notably absent from the market in February (down 64.1 per cent) but Government supported the business (down 6.1 per cent overall but up 3.2 per cent with passenger cars).

Another interesting statistic to come from the VFACTS results was that, while private buyers bought 41.3 per cent fewer diesel-powered passenger cars, business buyers bought 46.9 per cent more. Yet businesses bought 12.1 per cent fewer diesel LCVs while private buyers bought more (up 2.1 per cent).

Top 10 makes, February 2009:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 14,274 20.3%
2 Holden 9029 12.9%
3 Ford 7396 10.5%
4 Mazda 6376 9.1%
5 Nissan 4441 6.3%
6 Mitsubishi 4301 6.1%
7 Hyundai 4151 5.99%
8 Honda 3445 4.9%
9 Subaru 2848 4.1%
10 Volkswagen 2443 3.5%
Source: VFACTS

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