Small, economical cars powered record January sales, 9.9 per cent up on the same month last year. VFACTS show it was a close contest at the top of the chart, with the small Corolla beating the big Commodore by 11 sales — 3485 to 3474.
Holden played down the defeat — five months after the new model went on sale — noting that few businesses buy cars so early in the year.
"In January, fleet sales are softer so it is no surprise that the whole large-car segment is slightly down," GM Holden marketing manager Alan Batey says.
He says there is a strong future for Holden's best-selling car, despite the surge in sales of small cars, such as the Corolla.
"The Commodore remained the best-selling car in the country last year for the 11th year in a row," Batey says.
There were not many smiles at Ford either — it sold only 1974 Falcons last month, despite a drive-away deal and free six-speed automatic and stability control.
Ford Australia says the Falcon result is the worst since 1990, when it began to keep accurate sales records.
Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead McAlary says the drive-away Falcon deal was not successful.
Sales in the light-car segment (which includes models such as the Toyota Yaris) were up 14.3 per cent on last January.
Sales of small cars (including models such as the Corolla) were up a huge 26.3 per cent, and large cars were down 0.9 per cent.
The Mazda3 continued to sell strongly; January sales of 3347 put it third on the chart, 138 behind the Corolla. Other small cars to make the top 10 included the Astra (2239) and Ford Focus (1665). Mitsubishi's Lancer finished just outside the top 10 with 1527 sales, the company's best-selling car.
The Hilux (2781) and Yaris (2498) were strong again, but Toyota's larger cars were off the pace. The Camry did not make the top 10 with 1347, and the new Aurion continued its slow start with 1125.
The Falcon ute struggled with 834, but outsold Holden's Commodore ute with 697.
Ford's Territory responded to a $4000 cashback deal to notch 1343, in front of the Holden Captiva (577) and Toyota Kluger (389).
TOP 10 MAKES
1 Toyota 16,238
2 Holden 11,258
3 Ford 7501
4 Mazda 6627
5 Honda 5435
6 Nissan 5085
7 Mitsubishi 4554
8 Subaru 3097
9 Hyundai 3067
10 Volkswagen 2034
TOP 10 MODELS
1 Toyota Corolla 3485
2 Holden Commodore 3474
3 Mazda3 3347
4 Toyota Hilux 2781
5 Toyota Yaris 2498
6 Holden Astra 2239
7 Ford Falcon 1974
8 Nissan Navara 1874
9 Ford Focus 1665
10 Holden Barina 1563