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Hyundai overtakes Holden in August sales race | exclusive

For the first time in its 67-year history, Holden is at risk of finishing outside the Top Three sellers in 2015.

The iconic Holden brand has been overtaken by Korean car maker Hyundai in total sales so far this year and is at risk of falling outside the Top Three for the first time in its 67-year history.

As a sign of our changing taste in cars -- and as local vehicle manufacturing prepares to shut down by the end of 2017 -- preliminary figures to the end of August show Hyundai ahead of Holden by just 600 new car sales.

It is the first time ever Hyundai has led the former number one in the year-to-date tally.

The two brands have been neck and neck all year, but Hyundai is now likely to bump Holden out of the Top Three in the annual tally.

It will be the first time in Holden’s 67-year history it has been off the podium.

A confidential dealer bulletin obtained by News Corp Australia has revealed Hyundai has dramatically increased its sales targets in Australia for the final four months of the year to compensate for falling demand for new vehicles in China, the world's biggest market.

“In order to maintain global growth, the challenge has been issued to other countries to offset the issues in China and to search for growth beyond current business plans,” said the confidential bulletin to Hyundai dealers.

Hyundai has revived the heavily discounted price of $19,990 drive-away for its i30 hatchback -- about $5000 off full price.

It will be the first time in Holden’s 67-year history it has been off the podium.

When Hyundai offered the same car at that price in June it instantly became Australia's top seller for the month. But sales halved in the two months when the $19,990 drive-away price vanished.

A Hyundai spokesman declined to comment until official sales figures for August are released on Thursday.

But the August figures exchanged between Australia’s Top 15 car brands show the Toyota Corolla has increased its lead as the top-selling car so far this year, ahead of the Mazda3.

August is customarily a tough month for new-car sales as buyers cash-in on end-of-financial year deals in June that sometimes push deliveries to July.

Market leader Toyota was down by 7.2 per cent, as were Holden (down 8.9 per cent) and Ford, which was down a staggering 22.5 per cent off a low base.

But Japanese import brands Mazda, Honda, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Suzuki posted strong growth, likely driven by low prices enabled by favourable exchange rates with the Yen, which industry pundits claim has been artificially devalued to boost Japanese exports.