It’s not the one at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, but the one played out under lights at dealerships across the country for almost every day of the year.
When the sales top one million vehicles it has to be rated as a good year, even though there were plenty of tests, trials and tribulations on the way to the second-best result in motoring history.
The eventual mark was 1,012,164, although that will not be matched in 2009 despite the excitement generated by the newcomers at this year’s Melbourne show.
All forecasters are predicting a 10-15 per cent slide in new-car demand, as the global economic meltdown and rising unemployment take the edge off consumer confidence, with a likely result in the 850,000-900,000 range.
But there is no questioning the million-car run through 2008, which followed a record in 2007, as Toyota stormed to its sixth straight year as sales leader while the Holden Commodore was Australia’s favourite car for the 13th consecutive year.
“This is positive news for the Australian automotive industry,” says the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce’s Murray Collins.
“There is little doubt that 2008 was a challenging year, so to achieve one million new vehicle sales is a very good effort.”
There were plenty of highlights last year, as Maserati claimed “fastest growing car company” rights, Audi had another boom year, and Mazda, Subaru and Volkswagen also improved their results among the top-10 runners.
But Holden and Ford went backwards again, as their big Aussie sixes suffered the worst results on record thanks to fuel prices.
Mitsubishi, Nissan and Honda were also down from the highs of 2007. Their combined results were actually beaten by Toyota, which topped the charts with 238,983 sales — and also exported more than 100,000 Melbourne-made Camry and Aurion sedans.
Brand T is almost certain to be No.1 again in 2009, thanks to its momentum and GM Holden’s decision to concentrate on profits ahead of outright showroom volume.
“The next 12 months are expected to be tough for all concerned,” Collins says.
“But the industry is looking ahead with confidence after receiving significant support towards the end of 2008.
”The $6.2 billion New Car Plan showed the Rudd Government was committed to a sustainable automotive industry. And the Special Purpose Vehicle — the $2 billion floorplan rescue package — was a timely breakthrough by Treasurer Wayne Swan to end the dealer finance crisis.”
The story of Australia’s new-car showrooms in 2008 was a win for buyers, as big dollar deals on everything from a $29,990 Holden Commodore to a $9990 Hyundai Getz helped prevent a total meltdown.
Big stocks mean the analysts were predicting continued deals through to this month to clear ‘08 vehicles, followed by the arrival of the major newcomers of ‘09.
But there will be a penalty, with prices rising off the back of the slide in the Australian dollar through the second half of last year. Greats ‘08
Holden Commodore 51,093
Toyota Corolla 47,901
Toyota HiLux 42,956
Ford Falcon 31,936
Toyota Yaris 26,097
Toyota Camry 23,067
Mitsubishi Lancer 19,688
Toyota Aurion 19,562
Nissan Navara 18,574
The 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show...