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Buyers move away from Aussie cars

Of the 14.9 million drivers on Australian roads about 8.7 million are in Asian cars.

The biggest increase on our roads in the past five years has been European cars, up 312,000 to just over one million (42 per cent), according to Roy Morgan Research data.

Of the 14.9 million drivers on Australian roads about 8.7 million are in Asian cars, an increase of almost 22 per cent in the past five years, American cars are up 22,000 to 98,000 (29 per cent) while Australian cars have decreased 311,000 to 4.6 million (-6 per cent).

Roy Morgan industry communications director Norman Morris rejects the swing is anything to do with a cultural cringe, pointing out that satisfaction levels are up for Holden (from 88 to 89 per cent) and Ford (86 to 87 per cent).

"I think it's just that people's preferences are moving away from larger cars," he says.

"Ford and Holden have been all about Falcon and Commodore and there has been a big decline in the large car segment while there has been a rise in SUVs and small cars. There is also more preference toward diesel and alternate fuels which again supports the European flood of diesel cars. For example, BMW last year sold more diesel than petrol cars which is the first time for any brand as far as I know. It took Ford a long time to get a diesel in their Territory. Ford and Holden have been slow to react to this trend, so it will probably continue."

He says the rise of American and Asian cars could also be due to the free trade agreement with the US and Thailand making their vehicles more attractive on price. Morris says 44.9 per cent of buyers are now more concerned about how a car is put together rather than the company that makes it.

"That's a very high number," he says.

Honda drivers are the happiest customers with 94 per cent of owners satisfied with their vehicle, up from 92 per cent in 2006. Of the top 10 brands, Subaru and Volkswagen are the only ones to experience a drop in satisfaction levels. Both are down 1 per cent but Subaru is still the second highest, while Volkswagen is sixth.

Toyota increased its satisfaction levels by 1 per cent to 92 per cent and third place, despite worldwide controversy in the past few years with safety recalls. Morris points out that Korean brands Hyundai and Kia have made positive gains over the past five years. Hyundai is in the top 10 at seventh place with 90 per cent satisfaction, up from 89 per cent in 2006. There are now 828,000 Hyundais in Australia, up 47.4 per cent from 578,000, while Kia has more than doubled from 115,000 to 235,000.

Another brand to have increased substantially, but off a lower base is Volkswagen up 98.3 per cent from 119,000 to 236,000. Morris says the number of diesel models in the VW line-up had contributed to the growth spurt.

Citroen and Saab had the biggest declines in driver satisfaction with Citroen dropping 10 percentage points and Saab five. Morris says it will be interesting to look at the results again when Chinese brands such as Great Wall, Geely and Cherry have established themselves in the marketplace.

ORIGINS

Continent 2006 2011
Australia 4988 4677
Asia 7487 8976
Europe 751 1063
USA 76 98
(Figures in '000)
TOP 10 SATISFACTION
Company  2006 2011
Honda  92% 94%
Subaru    94% 93%
Toyota 91% 92%
Nissan 89% 91%
Mazda 90% 91%
Volkswagen 91% 90%
Hyundai  89% 90%
Holden  88% 89%
Mitsubishi 87% 88%
Ford    86% 87%
* Source Roy Morgan Research
POPULAR MODELS
Model  2006 2011
Average   90% 91%
Hyundai Getz  95% 95%
Mazda6  91% 95%
Mazda3 92% 92%
Toyota Corolla 91% 92%
Mazda2 96% 90%
Holden Cruze -- 90%
Toyota Camry 91% 90%
Holden Commodore 88% 89%
Ford Mondeo 77% 89%
Ford Falcon 86% 87%
(Satisfaction levels)