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Hyundai i30 Australia's top selling car in March

Buyers are getting better at choosing a bargain, as the latest figures show car sales soar when prices are slashed.

A bargain-priced Hyundai hatchback has become Australia's favourite car for the third time in 10 months, as buyers become more savvy at choosing when to sign a deal.

In a major upset, official new-car sales figures for March show Hyundai beat the reigning champion Toyota Corolla, the top seller for the past three years, and the Mazda3, which is number one when figures for the first three months of 2016 are combined.

Another sign of our changing taste in cars, Hyundai is also on track to overtake Holden, after beating them seven times last year and in the first three months this year.

Industry insiders say buyers are wising up to the fact that car companies turn deals on and off from month to month.

The Hyundai i30 was $19,990 drive-away with automatic transmission last month, about $7000 off the full RRP due to a massive discount given to dealers by the factory.

Coincidentally, the Hyundai i30 has only won the monthly sales race whenever this deal is on.

The Hyundai i30's March result of 4198 deliveries was double the number reported in the same month last year, when the discount was not offered.

"When it goes back to normal pricing, sales stop," said a leading metropolitan Hyundai dealer who asked to remain anonymous.

March figures also provide a clearer picture about how the big brands are tracking

"Buyers think we have the ability to discount that much all the time, but that's basically below our normal invoice price."

The dealer said the $19,990 drive-away offer is only possible "when the factory decides to slash the price".

In a move likely to make Toyota and Mazda nervous, the Hyundai i30 $19,990 drive-away deal -- with automatic transmission, a rear view camera and five-year warranty as standard -- continues into April.

March is customarily the second biggest month of the calendar for new-car sales because it marks the end of the Japanese financial year.

Six of the Top 10 brands are Japanese, and other companies need to sharpen their deals to stay in the race, providing a boon for buyers.

March figures also provide a clearer picture about how the big brands are tracking.

Toyota, market leader in Australia for the past 13 years, has posted sales declines for three months in a row, but remains comfortably ahead of Mazda.

Holden sales were also down for the third month in a row, beaten to third place by Hyundai every month so far this year.

The big winners were Mazda (up for 13 months in a row) and Ford, whose sales were up for the fifth month in a row.

The Ford result is significant because this is the company's first turnaround after 10 years of straight decline; in 2015 Ford posted its lowest sales in 48 years, since 1966.

Australia is on track for another record year of car sales

In other upsets, luxury brand Mercedes-Benz made it into the Top 10 ahead of Honda and Kia, while BMW delivered more vehicles than Isuzu.

Sales for March were steady (down 0.5 per cent to 104,512 deliveries) but a question mark remains over their accuracy, even though they are compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the car lobby group, and then supplied to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures represent the number of vehicles reported as sold by dealers and car companies, they are not based on registrations.

One multi-franchise dealer, who asked not to be named, said a significant number of Mitsubishi cars he had in stock were "pre-reported" and counted as sold in the March figures, but were not delivered and were yet to even have deposits taken on them.

Nevertheless, Australia is on track for another record year of car sales.

The number of cars reported as sold across the first three months of this year (285,328) is up by 2.8 per cent compared with the same period last year, which went on to become a record result.

The 2015 tally of 1,155,408 new vehicle deliveries was up by 1.6 per cent on the previous record set in 2013.

Top 10 cars in March

Hyundai i30 -- 4198, up 100 per cent
Toyota HiLux -- 3897, up 16.5 per cent
Toyota Corolla -- 3612, down 15.2 per cent
Mazda3 -- 3145, down 11.6 per cent
Ford Ranger -- 2960, up 22.1 per cent
Mitsubishi Triton -- 2740, down 6.8 per cent
Holden Commodore -- 2559 up 5.0 per cent
Mazda CX-5 -- 2252, down 3.9 per cent
Hyundai Accent -- 2034, up 125 per cent
Nissan XTrail -- 1991, down 16.4 per cent

Top 10 brands in March

Toyota -- 17,840, down 6.5 per cent
Mazda -- 10,228, up 0.1 per cent
Hyundai -- 9700, up 11.4 per cent
Holden -- 8355, down 2.5 per cent
Mitsubishi -- 6519, up 3.4 per cent
Ford -- 6481, up 7.6 per cent
Nissan -- 5811, down 18.6 per cent
Volkswagen -- 5316, down 3.8 per cent
Subaru -- 4825, up 20.6 per cent
Mercedes-Benz -- 3728, up 7.1 per cent

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