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Australian car sales riding high

Ford’s Broadmeadows plant has seen its production of the Territory go up by 44 per cent.

So much for the push towards greener cars. In automotive terms Australia is about to become the 51st state of the USA.

Australians are moving closer to North Americans in their taste in vehicles. For the first time ever there is now almost an exact 50:50 split between the sales of passenger cars – and utes and SUVs. The same ratio seen for decades in pick-up and SUV-loving USA. Twenty years ago passenger cars accounted for more than 70 per cent of all new vehicles sold in Australia.

Official figures released today confirm January 2013 was the strongest start to a year in Australian automotive history, eclipsing 85,000 deliveries for the first time – and the previous January record set in 2008 before the Global Financial Crisis.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reports 41,957 passenger cars were delivered in January compared to 41,595 utes, vans and SUVs – a slim gap of 362 sales, or the equivalent of just three days of deliveries for the top-selling car, the Mazda3.

“The trend towards SUVs and away from classic passenger cars is all to do with their style and versatility and mass-acceptability,” says David Chalke, a cultural change analyst with AustraliaScan. “Everybody’s doing it, there’s now a fear of being left out.”

Chalke says SUVs are no longer the heathens of the road thanks to their new levels of fuel-efficiency. “The new ones use comparatively so little fuel most people don’t think they’re driving a 4WD,” he said. “In fact in many cases they’re not. They are often two-wheel-drive with the appearance of a 4WD.”

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber says the mining boom is also driving ute and SUV sales. “Part of [the growth] is the mining boom, part of it is private buyers seeking new levels of flexibility and cars that better suit their needs.”

Australia’s three local car makers – Toyota, Holden and Ford – failed to cash-in. January is typically a slow month for sales of locally-made cars but they dropped by 28 per cent to an all-new low.

Just 2722 Australian made cars were delivered in January – which means the combined sales of the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon, Ford Territory, Toyota Camry and Toyota Aurion ranked third -- an unprecedented status. Mazda3 was the top-selling car (3345 sales), followed by the Toyota Corolla (2960), the Toyota Hilux (2747), and the Nissan Navara (2474).

The Ford Focus (2364) had its best month ever -- and helped drive Ford to a 33 per cent sales increase – but it outsold the Falcon by three-to-one. The Falcon (778 deliveries) is now selling at the same rate as the Mitsubishi 380 in the year before the factory closed. Ford’s Broadmeadows throughput is topped up by the production of Territory (up 44 per cent) and ute (down 22 per cent), but sales of both models are well down from their peaks.

Holden says it has scaled back production of the Commodore (1650 deliveries) ahead of a new model due in showrooms in June. Toyota sold just 557 Camrys and 227 Aurion V6 sedans (down 57 and 77 per cent respectively). The FCAI’s Weber dismissed the weak sales of locally mades cars as “just one bad month, let’ see where it goes”. “We’re going to continue to see more and more market segmentation,” Weber said. “We won’t see just one car reach the massive volumes of years past.”

In other highlights:

  • Toyota was down 5 per cent but is set to lead the market for the 11th year in a row;
  • Mazda outsold Holden to be second in the market for the fourth time ever (previous monthly second-placings: April, September and Dec 2012);
  • Nissan is closing-in on Ford, less than 500 sales behind, threatening to push the Blue Oval brand to sixth;
  • Honda had a blinder month, up 141 per cent from a low base – but still well down on its best year;
  • Audi outsold BMW for the fourth January (previous wins were in ’09, ’11, ’12) and the sixth time ever (after previous wins in Feb ’11, Oct ’11) but Mercedes was top luxury brand;
  • Sales of passenger cars fell by 1 per cent in a market that grew 11 per cent driven by surges in utes (up 43 per cent) and SUVs (up 20 per cent);
  • The delivery of 1878 heavy trucks (up 10 per cent) takes January tally to 85,430.

Top selling cars in January 2013

Mazda3 3345
Toyota Corolla 2960
Toyota HiLux 2747
Nissan Navara 2474
Ford Focus 2364
Hyundai i30 2006
Holden Captiva 2155
Mazda2 1665
Holden Commodore 1650
Holden Cruze 1630
Mazda CX5 1625

Top selling brands in January 2013

Toyota 13,375 down 4.9pc
Mazda 8912 up 5.1pc
Holden 8811 down 2.8pc
Ford 7721 up 32.3pc
Nissan 7248 up 35 pc
Hyundai 6816 up 4.7pc
Mitsubishi 4449 down 2.6pc
Volkswagen 3824 up 13.6pc
Honda 3816 up 141pc
Subaru 3104 down 3.2pc

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling


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