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New-car sales hit the accelerator in March

The Toyota Corolla outsold its arch rival the Mazda3 for the second month in a row.

New-car sales hit the accelerator for the second month in a row after the best March result of all time - but former Australian favourites Holden and Ford hit a wall.

Deliveries of new cars rose by 8.0 per cent compared to March last year to 105,054, figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries show.

The year-to-date tally of 277,594 vehicles is also 1.6 per cent higher than it was in March 2013, the previous record year for new-car sales in Australia. Prior to the past two months, the car market had been stable or in slow decline for the better part of a year.

The industry now believes 2015 could be another record - even though consumer confidence is down - because buyers are taking advantage of record low finance rates which enable them to update to a brand-new model with the same or lower monthly repayments.

Eight of the Top 10 brands posted increases while Holden and Ford had sales declines

Private buyers continued to be the driving force, accounting for half of all sales (up by 8.6 per cent), but business fleets (up 6.2 per cent), government fleets (up 9.2 per cent) and rental car companies (up 13.1 per cent) also bounced back. "When you match low prices with low interest rates, people have a great reason to buy a new car," said the chief executive of the FCAI Tony Weber.

Eight of the Top 10 brands posted increases while Holden and Ford had sales declines - of 13.0 per cent and 14.4 per cent respectively - as they adjusted to weakening demand for their locally-made vehicles in the lead-up to their factory closures in the next two years.

Most luxury marques continued to sparkle, with Audi (up 22.4 per cent), BMW (up 14.4 per cent), Mercedes-Benz (up 29.5 per cent) and Porsche (up 86.7 per cent) all posting increases that outpaced the market.

Another notable highlight: the Mercedes-Benz C Class was the second-highest selling medium-sized sedan behind the Toyota Camry and ahead of the Subaru Liberty, Mazda6 and Honda Accord. Prestige brands customarily account for 8 per cent of car sales globally; in Australia they make up more than 11 per cent of new vehicle deliveries.

A further sign of our changing taste in cars, three of the top six vehicles were workhorse utes: the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Ford Ranger.

The Toyota Corolla outsold its arch rival the Mazda3 for the second month in a row to be our top-selling car. But the reigning champion Corolla is now also leading the new-car market in the year-to-date tally, having been 90 cars behind the Mazda in February.

The two small cars have been battling it out for number one for the past four years after the Mazda3 ended the Holden's Commodore's record 15-year winning streak in 2011.

Deliveries of locally-made cars fell to a new low (down 9.3 per cent) but the Ford Falcon posted its first increase since December 2013 (up 9.4 per cent), aided in part by the revival of the Falcon XR8 sports sedan, and the Toyota Camry also recovered (up 11.2 per cent).

However, the Ford Territory (down 14.8 per cent), Holden Commodore (down 17.9 per cent), and Holden Cruze small car (down 24.3 per cent) continued to struggle.

Meanwhile Japanese company Mazda posted its best monthly result of all time after it introduced a new compact SUV, which has turned out to be a star car in the fastest growing segment of the market. Mazda sold almost a month's worth of stock in the last nine days of the month as soon as the all-new CX-3 went on sale.

Significantly, its arrival didn't dent sales of the Mazda3 small car or its larger CX-5 soft-roader.

Top 10 car brands in March

Toyota 19,082 - up 4.4 per cent
Mazda 10,217 - down 11 per cent
Hyundai 8709 - up 1.2 per cent
Holden 8571 - down 13.0 per cent
Nissan 7138 - up 18.7 per cent
Mitsubishi 6307 - up 16.1 per cent
Ford 6023 - down 14.4 per cent
Volkswagen 5525 - up 19.8 per cent
Honda 4042 - up 75.4 per cent
Subaru 4002 - up 5.0 per cent

Top 10 vehicles in March

Toyota Corolla 4261 - up 4.3 per cent
Mazda3 3558 - down 0.8 per cent
Toyota HiLux 3346 - up 7.7 per cent
Mitsubishi Triton 2940 - up 8.4 per cent
Holden Commodore 2436 - down 17.9 per cent
Ford Ranger 2424 - up 5.3 per cent
Mazda CX-5 2344 - up 21.3 per cent
Toyota Camry 2319 - up 11.2 per cent
Hyundai i30 2098 - down 24.2 per cent
Volkswagen Golf 2084 - up 66.5 per cent
Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries

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