Australia’s record new-car sales run is tipped to slow in September for the first time since recovering from the Global Financial Crisis -- not because of the federal election but an expected rise in unemployment tipped by the NAB and Reserve Bank.
New-car sales were up 10 per cent in January, dealers are reporting another month of strong deliveries in February, and the market is on track for another record year.
But a leading industry analyst says although consumer confidence is high and car prices are at record lows new vehicle sales could be dented from September.
“There will be a little bit more unemployment towards the end of the year … because a lot of the big infrastructure projects will start to wind down,” said Doug Dickson, the boss of Mazda Australia, the second-biggest seller last month behind Toyota, and which sells cars to more private buyers than any other brand.
“Consumer confidence is up, share prices are rocketing … so I think we still have a good year ahead of us. However we think we will see a correction in the market in September.”
Buyers can still expect good deals across the market as the price of imports -- about 90 per cent of cars sold in Australia -- remain buoyed by the strong Australian dollar. “How long the Australian dollar holds its strength we’re not sure but we think it’ll hold for most of the year,” Dickson said.
This should be enough to edge the market to another all-time high, with Mazda predicting a modest rise of 0.4 per cent on last year’s record to 1.116 million. Last year’s result of 1.112 million was up 5.9 per cent on the previous record set in 2007 and 10 per cent up on the prior year.
Earlier this year the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries forecast a dip in sales in 2013. But the big three car brands -- Toyota, Mazda and Holden -- expect another record year driven by a rush of new models. Official sales figures for February will be released late next week.
Meanwhile Australia’s best-selling car for 2013 remains anyone’s guess. Mazda says it is not expecting its small car to take the top spot for the third year in a row due to strong competition from the new Toyota Corolla and Nissan Pulsar.
There is also the possibility of a late charge from the Holden Commodore in the second half of the year after the new model goes on sale in June.
“The race is wide open,” Dickson said. “This year [the Mazda3] won’t have it all its own way. There are a number of very worthy competitors, all previous front-runners and they have sufficient form to do it again.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling