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VFACTS: Battle of the brands continues

Lights are on: Hyundai’s i20 achieved its highest monthly sales volume since launch, but 522 was still well short of its volume-selling but soon-to-be-retired Getz, which led the light-car segment last month with 1575 sales.

Heat comes off new-car sales in October, but competition among brands remains fierce

4 Nov 2010

AS SOME heat came out of the Australian new-vehicle market in October, with sales rising 0.1 per cent over the same month last year, the fascinating battle for third place honours behind Toyota and Holden continued with less than 2200 units separating Ford in third and Nissan in seventh.

After losing third position to Mazda last month, Ford returned to its familiar position on the podium with 7150 sales – a figure which, in parallel with some other major players, was down on last month’s all-time-record September.

However, the Blue Oval brand’s market share for October was down to 8.8 per cent, less than one percentage point ahead of Hyundai which stole fourth position with 6359 sales and a 7.9 per cent share.

It was the best October result for the South Korean brand since it started selling cars in Australia in 1986, and, with almost 70,000 sales YTD, guarantees a record result for the entire year.

 center imageFrom top: Toyota Corolla, Holden Commodore, Mazda2, Subaru Forester.

“We are excited to have surpassed our best-ever annual sales record in the first 10 months of this year,” said Hyundai Motor Co Australia sales director Damien Meredith. “Our new models i20 and i45 have performed well alongside our all-star performers Getz and i30.

“This is a great result as we head towards the end of the year.”

Mazda, which like Hyundai and Nissan has designs on holding down a 10 per cent market share in Australia over the next few years (positioning, if not cementing, the brand into third place), was fourth for the month on 7.1 per cent and 5746 sales, while Mitsubishi and Nissan were close behind on 6.3 per cent (5095 units) and 6.1 per cent (4954) respectively.

Toyota reinforced its position as the seemingly unconquerable market leader in Australia, winning a 20.2 per cent market share with 16,329 new registrations – more than it achieved in last month’s strong sales climate – while Holden held its now-familiar second position with ease with a 12.3 per cent share (9956).

At the other end of the top-10 table, Volkswagen – another brand with big ambitions in Australia – made its impact felt with a 4.2 per cent share and 3367 sales, which brought it into ninth place – not far behind Honda in eighth on 4.9 per cent (3931) and above Subaru, which managed a 4.0 per cent share with 3210 sales that included record October results for Impreza and Forester.

Among the niche brands, Suzuki recorded its best-ever October sales (2248), keeping it on track to crack 25,000 annual sales for the first time in Australia, while at the other end of the scale Rolls-Royce registered four vehicles last month to bring its 2010 total to 20 – well up on the nine it sold for the full year in 2009.

For the market overall, the 80,925 vehicles sold – up 0.1 per cent or 112 vehicles over October 2009 – was seen by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) as a solid result given the market’s resurgence at the end of last year, largely as a consequence of the federal government’s small business tax break.

“It needs to be acknowledged that sales this time last year were being boosted by the stimulus of the business tax break so it is encouraging to see that the market is maintaining that momentum,” said FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.

“The market is on track for an impressive yearly total and this confirms the industry can achieve our projection of more than one million vehicle sales.”

Year to date, the Australian new-vehicle market has recorded 861,645 new registrations – up 13 per cent (or 98,858 sales) on the same period last year, which equates to an expected full-year result of 1.037 million units.

Passenger cars are up 10 per cent, with all segments up YTD bar large cars under $70,000 (down 0.3 per cent, but looking brighter with the VE Series II Commodore kicking in) and upper-large cars under $100,000 (down 19.0 per cent), which of course are traditionally dominated by local manufacturers.

SUVs are continuing to exert their influence over the market, up 30.5 per cent YTD – with almost 200,000 SUVs sold in Australia so far this year – while light trucks remain in positive territory, up 5.4 per cent YTD and still generating strong sales in the 4x4 pick-up/cab-chassis market in particular (up 15.5 per cent) as private buyers keep the segment buoyant after business sales prevailed during last year’s tax-break period.

Overall, private sales are up 16.2 per cent YTD (up 2.0 per cent last month), while the rental market continues to be the other big improver with 46.8 per cent growth this year (up 2.7 per cent last month). Business sales are up 7.7 per cent YTD and government sales 7.6 per cent YTD.

While Toyota highlights the fact that it is now poised to finish the year with more than 200,000 sales – a level never achieved by any other car company in Australia – after selling 173,867 vehicles YTD for a 20.2 per cent share, Holden is equally enthused by its strengthening position, which now sees it on 111,125 sales YTD for a 12.9 per cent share.

Toyota is banking on an even higher sales rate in November and December, pointing to the success of finance offers and the repositioning of key models such as Yaris, Corolla and Kluger.

Holden, meanwhile, is expecting a sales lift from its new Spark city car, and continued strong performances from the Cruze (2135 sales last month, though this was only good enough for fourth in its segment) and Commodore, which achieved 3787 new registrations last month – its highest October sales figure since 2008.

Ford is 8900 units clear of Mazda in YTD sales (80,221, for a 9.3 per cent share, versus 71,314 and 8.3 per cent), with Hyundai closing in on 67,941 (7.9 per cent). Mitsubishi (52,312) and Nissan (51,852) will be left to battle out sixth and seventh places, while the final three positions in Australia’s top 10 is still to be determined, with Honda (34,608) , Subaru (33,907) and Volkswagen (31,842) neck-and-neck.

Last month, the SUV segment (up 22.9 per cent) was the only area to record an increase over October 2009, with passenger cars down 2.7 per cent and light commercials down 13.3 per cent.

Among the compact SUVs, Toyota’s RAV4 (1371) and Subaru’s Forester (1230) dominated, but were the only vehicles over the 1000-sales mark, showing the increased fragmentation in the segment – now with 20 active participants – as new and improved models enter the market.

Nissan’s X-Trail and Dualis models recorded 899 and 559 respectively, Hyundai notched up 767 sales with its new ix35, and Honda’s CR-V came in at 699 units.

Toyota’s dual strategy of Kluger (1263) and Prado (1181) continues to pay dividends in the medium SUV segment, while Holden is performing well with its Captiva, a model which racked up 999 sales last month to take third place ahead of Ford’s Territory (891) and Mitsubishi’s Pajero (719).

Overall, compact SUVs were up 36.4 per cent last month, while mid-sizers climbed 29.2 per cent and even the big 4WD wagons, still the domain of the Toyota LandCruiser (898 sales), were up 15.3 per cent.

The increasingly important light-car segment was up 16.6 per cent for the month, with Hyundai’s soon-to-be-retired Getz taking top honours with 1575 sales – the new i20 claimed 522 – as Toyota recorded 1536 sales with Yaris. Next best was the Mazda2 (1146) and Holden Barina (1070, which included around 300 units of the new Spark, launched late in the month).

The small-car segment, up 11.8 per cent overall for the month, also turned up familiar results from the major players, with Corolla (2803) leading the Mazda3 (2556) and Hyundai i30 (2165).

Ford continued to struggle with Focus, down 15.8 per cent for the month with 824 sales. YTD, Focus is down 16.6 per cent and is one of the few major nameplates in Australia’s biggest market segment to experience a significant decline. Nissan’s Tiida is another, down 23.0 per cent with only 4553 sales for the year.

The medium-car segment was up 9.3 per cent last month, with the Toyota Camry racking up 1924 sales and leaving all other brands to fight among much smaller volumes. Next best were the Honda Accord Euro (496), Subaru Liberty (440) and Mazda6 (420).

The first full month of Holden VEII Commodore sales and its subsequent 3787-unit result handed it a 51.3 per cent share of the large-car (under $70,000) market, while Ford recorded 2258 sales for a 30.6 per cent share.

Falcon’s result was, however, down 20.5 per cent for the month – leaving it 0.8 per cent down YTD – while the Commodore was up 9.6 per cent for the month and YTD is 6.4 per cent in positive territory.

In terms of locally manufactured vehicle sales, Ford is also the only brand to experience a downturn this year. After falling 18.9 per cent last month, it is now 1.5 per cent down YTD, compared to Toyota which is up 4.8 per cent (despite a 16.5 per cent decline last month) and Holden which is currently up 5.3 per cent in local build terms after weathering a 2.7 per cent fall in October.

In other segment results, people-movers were up 5.3 per cent but negative results were found elsewhere, including sportscars (-6.5 per cent), vans (-20.9), 4x2 and 4x4 pick-up/cab-chassis (-18.4/8.0 per cent) and light buses (-12.9).

VFACTS Octobertop 10:

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