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VFACTS: Poor start to new decade of car sales

Grand slam: Kia’s Australian Open sponsorship handed it a high profile last month, with Cerato (left) proving to be its biggest seller on 1500 sales and the new Seltos (below) a big hit with 824.

Kia the sole leading brand to hold firm as new-vehicle sales dive 12.5% in January

5 Feb 2020

A NEW decade has arrived but the Australian automotive sector remains in serious decline with new-vehicle registrations in January falling 12.5 per cent – equivalent to more than 10,200 units – compared to the opening month of trading a year ago that takes the industry down to a level not seen since the global financial crisis.


Figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that 71,731 sales were recorded last month, marking the first descent below 80,000 units for January in eight years and the lowest result since the GFC ravaged the market in 2009.


As it was across the 2019 calendar year, Kia was the only member of the leading car brands last month to hold its head up above water, posting 4705 sales (+1.2%) to secure a top-five position.


This is despite the fact that shipping delays left the South Korean brand with stock shortages last month, although Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said he expected supplies to improve from here on.


Every major market category was down, with SUVs falling 1.5 per cent (to 35,393 units), passenger cars plummeting 26.9 per cent (to 20,494) and commercial vehicles likewise taking double-digit dives – light commercials sunk 11.2 per cent (to 14,035) and heavy commercials took a 17.6 per cent hit (to 1809).


FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the January result, which stands as the 22nd consecutive monthly decline for the industry, was unsurprising.


“Given the broad range of environmental, financial, international and political issues facing Australia during January, it is no surprise to see the new vehicle market has reported a conservative start to the year,” Mr Weber said.


Other individual brand results were largely in line with the trends seen on the downward slope throughout last year, with Toyota remaining dominant on 14,809 units (-7.2%) and Mazda holding second position on 6695 – albeit with a 29.5 per cent plunge for the month.


This will give Mazda’s closest rivals plenty of incentive to push hard for an improved position, although Hyundai (5443) and Mitsubishi (5108) have their own difficulties to deal with, dropping 12.3 and 23.4 per cent respectively last month.


As January shows us, Ford will struggle to retain its grip on a top-five position this year and last month slipped behind Kia to sixth place with 4169 sales (-5.7%).


Ford’s one saving grace is that the Ranger continues to shine, underpinning the Blue Oval brand’s volume with 2624 sales last month (+2.3%) and coming within 344 units of the nation’s top-selling vehicle, the Toyota HiLux (2968, -24.9%).


Toyota also still dominated the charts with Corolla (2370, -1.9%) and RAV4 (2290, -27.2%) in third and fourth position respectively, while Mitsubishi’s Triton rounded out the top five (2075, +22.3%).


Locked in a three-way battle last month that is sure to continue throughout the year was Nissan (3444, -9.4%), Honda (3436, -15.0%) and Volkswagen (3246, -10.3%), while the embattled Australian lion brand, Holden, managed only 10th and was quite some distance behind on 2641 units – another historically low result that signifies a 36.6 per cent decline.


This is only going to deepen this year as Holden pulls out of passenger cars altogether with the discontinuation of its Commodore and Astra, both of which continued to fare poorly last month with less than 400 sales between them – 268 (-33.5%) and 121 (-88.7%) respectively.


Subaru sat outside the top 10 on 2250 sales (-34.6%), while among the prestige brands, BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz Cars with 1931 sales (-6.3%) compared to 1858 (-8.7%). Throw in Mercedes LCVs (357) and BMW was still ahead by 35 units.


Audi is also on the comeback trail, shifting 1448 sales to earn a 12.9 per cent increase for the month.


Sales in every state and territory were well down in January compared to the corresponding month last year, as was volume among the major buyer groups – private, business and government sales were down between 11.8 and 17.8 per cent, offset only by rental purchases which are traditionally stronger in the summer months, as reflected by a 2.8 per cent uptick.


Under a new reporting regime described as more accurate than ever before, the FCAI has created a separate segment for the fast-growing light SUVs – taking it out from small SUVs – and these two segments were the standout performers in the marketplace last month, recording growth of 9.6 per cent (light, at 2291 units) and 8.9 per cent (small, 9092), while upper-large SUVs also rose 1.8 per cent (1181).


These do, of course, generally come at the expense of other categories rather than representing new buyers entering the market, with medium SUVs – the biggest individual segment at 14,265 units last month – falling 6.1 per cent and large SUVs dropping 6.3 per cent (8564).


The pick-up/cab-chassis segments also struggled, falling 25.8 per cent (4x2) and 9.3 per cent (4x4), while small passenger cars – still one of the top-selling categories – was crunched, down 24.9 per cent.


These are all worrying signs for the auto sector as we are comparing against total industry sales that were also down 7.4 per cent in January last year.


Indeed, the industry has now shed nearly 17,000 sales in January trading since the 88,551 recorded in 2018.


Top 10 Brands January 2020

Ranking Brand Sales Share %
1 Toyota 14,809 20.6
2 Mazda 6695 9.3
3 Hyundai 5443 7.6
4 Mitsubishi 5108 7.1
5 Kia 4705 6.6
6 Ford 4169 5.8
7 Nissan 3444 4.8
8 Honda 3436 4.8
9 Volkswagen 3246 4.5
10 Holden 2641 3.7

Source: VFACTS


Top 10 Models January 2020

Ranking Model Sales
1 Toyota HiLux 2968
2 Ford Ranger 2624
3 Toyota Corolla 2370
4 Toyota RAV4 2290
5 Mitsubishi Triton 2075
6 Hyundai i30 2038
7 Mazda CX-5 1859
8 Kia Cerato 1500
9 Nissan X-Trail 1467
10 Mazda3 1330

Source: VFACTS

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