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SUVs overtake cars in sales race

The HiLux was the best-selling model in Australia for the second year in a row, but the Ranger was not far behind.

SUV sales officially overtook traditional passenger cars in 2017, according to VFACTS sales data released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) today.

The growth of high-riding wagons was instrumental in propelling overall new-vehicle sales to a record of 1,189,116 units last year, an improvement of 0.9 per cent over 2016's result, as well as the fourth record in five years and the eighth successive year of seven-digit sales.

Specifically, SUVs led from the front with 465,646 sales, giving them a 39.2 per cent market share and an uptick of 5.6 per cent year-on-year.

Alternatively, passenger cars continued to slide, dropping 7.5 per cent in 2017, with sales of 450,012 – or a 37.8 per cent share.

Despite buyer preference for SUVs, Toyota’s HiLux ute went back-to-back as Australia’s best-selling model, growing its overall sales to a record 47,093 units, representing a year-on-year increase of 11.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Ranger came within an arm's reach of the HiLux as it surpassed the Corolla to claim second place on the sales ladder, tallying a record 42,728 sales, an improvement of 15.7 per cent on 2016.

While SUV sales grew significantly last year, light-commercial vehicle (LCV) growth came at a higher rate, up 8.6 per cent on the way to a 19.9 per cent overall market share.

One-tonne pick-ups accounted for 88 per cent of LCV sales, with 4x4 utes setting the pace with 165,797 sales, mainly due to their popularity with tradespeople and families.

According to FCAI chief executive Tony Weber, increased competition among carmakers in the market resulted in record monthly sales last year.

“Clearly, Australian consumers recognise the value for money that is on offer in the new-vehicle market, and responded accordingly,” he said.

“To have eight record months out of 12 in 2017 speaks volumes for how brands successfully placed new products and incentives into the market which kept attracting buyers into the showrooms right through the year.”

Toyota again assumed top billing as Australia’s best-selling brand, pacing the market with 216,566 sales, a 3.3 per cent jump over its 2016 total.

This tally was the Japanese marque's best since 2012 and became the 21st time it led the new-vehicle market, including the previous 15 years.

The Corolla was the best-selling passenger car in Australia again last year, irrespective of its 7.4 per cent drop in sales.

Camry sales – during its last year as a home-grown model – dipped by 10.8 per cent, however the top-selling mid-size sedan kept its top-10 spot, placing ninth.

Mazda finished second in the brand rankings, with it totalling 116,349 sales, up 1.6 per cent over its 2016 registrations.

The CX-5 did not surrender its status as Australia’s preferred SUV, finishing sixth overall, thanks to a 5.2 per cent jump on the back of the new-generation model. Meanwhile, the Mazda3 small car dropped nearly 10 per cent but edged out the Hyundai i30 for fourth place.

Hyundai sales dipped 4.5 per cent, with a 23.8 per cent drop for the new-gen i30 affecting the South Korean company's total.

Holden maintained fourth spot overall, decreasing by 4.2 per cent, despite ending last year with an impressive December tally of 12,179 units, tracking 57.7 per cent ahead of the same month in 2016.

The Commodore was the Red Lion's best seller, claiming eighth position, but Australian production ended in 2017, with the model to become an imported mid-size liftback and wagon from February.

Mitsubishi continued to charge ahead, passing Ford to assume fifth place overall (80,654 units, +9.9 per cent), mainly due its popular Triton ute that was the tenth best seller last year, as well as the compact ASX and mid-size Outlander SUVs.

Ford sales slid 3.8 per cent, to 78,161 units, forcing it out of the top five, despite the Ranger recording its best yearly result yet.

Specifically, the pick-up was responsible for 55 per cent of the Blue Oval's sales in 2016, with the Mustang sportscar its second most popular model at 9165 units.

Stocks of the Falcon large car finally dried up with zero sales in December, taking over a year after local production ended to do so. Meanwhile, supply of the Territory SUV carries on, with four registrations tallied last month.

Volkswagen’s 2.4 per cent improvement propelled it to seventh position, while Nissan continued its sales drop, decreasing 15.3 per cent – the largest decline among the top-10 brands.

Kia continued to make noise in the market, with its registrations jumping 28.3 per cent last year, to 54,737 sales – the first time it has surpassed the 50,000-unit milestone in Australia.

This growth was enough to drop Subaru to 10th spot, despite a sales improvement of 11.7 per cent over its 2016 total.

Honda finished just outside the top 10 with 46,783 units, while Mercedes-Benz passenger car and van sales were enough for 12th position overall.

Isuzu Ute also performed well last year, amassing 25,804 overall sales, up 10.4 per cent year-on-year and good enough for 13th place.

Its December tally of 2936 units was the Japanese brand's second-best monthly result yet.

Specifically, the MU-X (8087 units) was the best-selling model in the sub-$70,000 ute-based large-SUV segment, outpacing the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer and Toyota Fortuner.

Additionally, the D-Max (17,717 units) went from strength-to-strength in the one-tonne ute segment, overtaking the Navara to claim fifth place in the end-of-year standings.

Did you purchase a new vehicle last year? Tell us what and why you choose it in the comments below.

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