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VFACTS: Tesla bolsters strong March sales

EV figures boosted by Tesla and Polestar; best March sales since 2018

5 Apr 2022

NEW car sales in March hit their highest level since 2018, with a total of 101,233 vehicles sold across the month – an increase of 1228 units over the same month last year, and nearly 20,000 units in front of March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic officially began.


However, while that number may be a sign that economic recovery is on the way, it’s still several thousand down on March 2018’s 106,988-unit sales tally, and it’s also a number that’s artificially pumped up by a newcomer to the VFACTS list: Tesla.


Tesla officially recorded 4417 Model 3 sales for the month of March, however the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) points out that number is actually the year-to-date total for the American brand, rather than a true reflection of its performance in March.


However, the addition of Tesla – as well as another all-electric newcomer to VFACTS, Polestar – brings some much-needed accuracy to the FCAI’s recording of electric vehicle sales. With Tesla enjoying a considerable lead in the EV space – but being famously gun-shy about making its regional sales figures public – a true picture of EV uptake in this country has been lacking until now.


Despite the addition of two new brands to the spreadsheet, and a strong monthly result in March, new car sales in Australia still contracted slightly in year-to-date terms, falling by 0.5 per cent relative to 2021’s first quarter result. Supply constraints due to the pandemic’s impacts on production are ongoing, as are shortages of semiconductors, while the longer-term impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on second- and third-tier suppliers has yet to become apparent.


“This is historically a unique time in which supply rather than demand is determining the size of the market,” said FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber.


“This is due to manufacturers recovering from the pandemic-related shutdowns and the ongoing global shortage of micro-processing units. Consumer inquiries and demand for new cars remains strong. Manufacturers are working hard to match this demand with supply.”


Toyota continued to assert its dominance in the showroom, coming in first place in the March sales race with 21,828 vehicles sold, and with four of its vehicles in the top ten models list: Hilux (first), RAV4 (second), Prado (eighth), and Corolla (ninth). Toyota also increased its market share, with its 58,047-unit year-to-date result good enough for a 22.1 per cent stake of the total market. 


Mazda trails Toyota in second place, with its 11.4 per cent year-to-date market share proving the brand’s staying power in the Australian market despite it having one of the older product portfolios in the mainstream segment.


The SUV market also appears to have cooled off somewhat. After a gangbuster 2021, where overall SUV sales expanded by nearly 80,000 units, the market for high-riding wagons and hatches shrank in the month of March by 1.6 per cent, with year-to-date sales dropping by 0.3 percent. A small change, to be sure, but a notable one considering last year’s surge in growth. As with virtually every vehicle category, however, it’s difficult to ascertain whether this trend is a result of changes in buyer behaviour, or merely constraints on supply.


And diving deeper into the SUV segment, there are still sectors with healthy demand. Small SUV sales may be waning – especially in the premium space – but mainstream midsize SUVs made modest gains while mainstream large SUV sales are up by 11.9 per cent so far this year. Upper-large SUVs, meanwhile, continue to be hobbled by constraints on the Toyota Landcruiser 300 Series and Nissan Patrol, with that segment down by 34.6 per cent YTD.


Passenger car sales actually grew in March, though only by three per cent and arguably only because of the sudden injection of three months’ worth of Tesla Model 3 sales. So far this year, passenger car sales have actually declined by a significant 9.7 per cent. 


On the other side of the coin, light commercial vehicles have so far proved to be grinners in 2022, with year-to-date sales increasing by 6.8 per cent across the segment and March numbers being four per cent ahead of the March 2021.


The sustained popularity of dual-cab utes remains a driver of this, however workman-type 4x2s boosted their fortunes last month as well. Heavy commercial vehicles have made even bigger percentage gains, likely as a result in increasing investment in road logistics, which is also benefiting the light and medium van segments.


Brand wise, Chinese automaker MG continues to creep up in the standings with it so far sitting at seventh place this year ahead of Isuzu and behind Ford, while Kia and Hyundai remain glued together with the former now fourth and the latter in fifth – though with 17,452 and 17,293 YTD sales respectively, their showroom performance is as good as identical.


Mitsubishi retains third place with a comfortable 4900-unit margin between it and Kia, while Subaru has dropped from eight to tenth and Nissan has moved up from tenth to ninth.


Top 10 vehicle sales by make (March 2022):

Make Sales Share
Toyota 21,828 21.6%
Mazda 11,248 11.1%
Mitsubishi 9007 8.9%
Hyundai 6516 6.4%
Kia 6051 6.0%
Ford 4245 4.2%
MG 3962 3.9%
Isuzu 3306 3.3%
Nissan 3168 3.1%
Subaru 2279 2.3%


Top 10 vehicle sales by model (March 2022):

Model Sales Variance
Toyota HiLux 6324 +18.9%
Toyota RAV4 4610 +30.9%
Tesla Model 3 4417 N/A
Mitsubishi Triton 3808 +52.8%
Mazda CX-5 3772 +24.8%
Ford Ranger 2960 -25.7%
Hyundai i30 2455 -2.3%
Isuzu D-Max 2447 +22.7%
Toyota LandCruiser Prado 2230 +84.1%
Toyota Corolla 1924 -33.5%


State by state (March 2022):

State/Territory Sales Variance
New South Wales 32,224 -0.8%
Victoria 27,155 +5.3%
Queensland 21,214 -1.7%
Western Australia 10,016 +5.3%
South Australia 6380 -0.1%
Tasmania 1768 +8.2%
Australian Capital Territory 1560 -6.2%
Northern Territory 916 -0.2%

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