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Car sales slow for sixth month in a row

Top of the charts ... Corolla leads the Mazda3 by just 21 sales.

Just 21 cars separate Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 in the 2014 new-car sales race.

New-car bargains are set to continue as sales slowed for the sixth month in a row and dealers remain overstocked.

Affordability may be at a 38-year-high and prices already at 20-year lows, but new-car deliveries are down by 2.1 per cent in the first seven months of this year (to 649,818 deliveries) compared to the same period last year.

Figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries show new-car sales dipped by 0.4 per cent in July compared with the same month last year, with 89,867 vehicles finding new homes.

Experts say the downturn could be a "hangover" from last year’s all-time record, with 1,136,227 vehicles reported as sold.

Industry insiders believe the official data has been distorted because a number of big brands declared cars as sold last year even though they hadn’t actually been delivered to customers.

At least one company, Nissan, has admitted it is delivering more new cars this year than what it is reporting to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, so that it can balance its books. Mitsubishi and Honda are believed to be doing the same.

"If you look at (the official sales figures) it may look like we’re falling behind, but the truth is we’re clearing stuff that was already counted," Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery told industry journal GoAuto.

"So the (official sales figures) you’ve been seeing from us is understated compared to what we’ve actually been putting across the (kerb)." 

One source who asked to remain anonymous told News Corp Australia: "The industry has digested most of the cars declared as sold last year, even though they were still in dealer stock, so you will start to see the reported sales numbers pick up later in the year."

With the Australian dollar likely to strengthen later in the year, according to economists, and with interest rates remaining at record lows, sharp deals are expected to continue across most makes and models.

At the top of the sales charts the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 are in a tighter battle than the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore ever were.

The last time the Ford Falcon outsold Holden Commodore in a month, in September 2003, it was by just 48 sales (7409 versus 7361).

The Toyota Corolla -- last year’s top seller -- has taken the lead in the new-car sales race for the first time in 2014, just 21 cars ahead of the arch rival Mazda3.

The Mazda3 was Australia’s favourite car for two of the past three years and ended the Holden Commodore’s 15-year winning streak in 2011.

Official sales figures for July show the Corolla was the top selling car for the fifth month in a row, but it is the first time it has topped the year-to-date tally after the Mazda3 posted an unusually high number of "demonstrator" deliveries at the start of the year.

However, only four of the Top 10 brands posted sales gains, and Holden’s 10th month in a row of sales surges came to an end, posting an 11 per cent drop in July compared with the same month last year.

The Holden Commodore has also posted its first monthly sales decline for the first time since the new model went on sale a year ago. But at least there was a silver lining for Holden: it had three cars in the Top 10.

As a sign of the changing times, in the luxury segment Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division has outsold Holden Special Vehicles so far this year; figures show HSV sold 1056 cars to June (with the supercharged HSV GTS accounting for almost half of the brand’s sales) compared with 1208 AMG Mercedes-Benz cars.

Mazda 3 Mazda 3

Top 10 cars in July 2014
Toyota Corolla 3800 -- down 3.7 per cent
Mazda3 3421 -- down 1.2 per cent
Toyota HiLux 3140 -- up 5.6 per cent
Holden Commodore 2469 -- down 12.7 per cent
Hyundai i30 2434 -- up 6.3 per cent
Ford Ranger 2023 -- up 13.5 per cent
Mazda CX-5 1895 -- up 15.7 per cent
Toyota Camry 1806 -- down 12.4 per cent
Holden Cruze 1747 -- down 29.2 per cent
Holden Colorado 1443 -- down 14.8 per cent

Top 10 brands in July 2014
Toyota 16,486 down 5.4 per cent
Holden 8990 down 11.3 per cent
Hyundai 8351 up 4.3 per cent
Mazda 8048 down 5.6 per cent
Ford 6210 down 7.8 per cent
Nissan 5451 up 7.5 per cent
Mitsubishi 5042 down 10.4 per cent
Volkswagen 3991 up 0.6 per cent
Subaru 3121 up 0.6 per cent
Honda 2708 down 1.4 per cent

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, percentage change compared with the same month last year.