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The brands you've never heard of defying Australia's new-car sales slump

A handful of brands are defying the new-car sales slump.
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

5 Mar 2019 • 5 min read

Yes, at a glance it seems Australia's new-car market is a sea of red ink and plummeting sales, with numbers seemingly down across the board. But look a little closer and you'll discover some plucky brands somehow defying the downturn to post some truly incredible results.

Because across the board, the new-car market is struggling. Offical VFACTS figures released today show overall sales of 87,102 in February this year. Which sounds like a big number, granted, until you learn that, in February 2018, the market managed 95,999 sales - a drop of around nine percent, month on month.

And those numbers are reflected in the year-to-date sales, too. At this point last year we were sitting on 184,550 sales. This year, however, that number has fallen to 169,096 - a drop of around 8.5 percent. Most of the big players are struggling, with eight of the top 10 brands reporting significant drops in sales; and some by as much as 22 percent.

But amidst all this doom and gloom, some brands are thriving. And the question every other manufacturer is surely wondering is why?

Take Mitsubishi, for example. Australia's third-best-selling car brand has been on a stellar run of late, and its dealership success only continued in February, with sales up 18 percent, month on month, and a whopping 22.2 percent for the year. Leading that considerable charge is the brand's ASX compact SUV, which moved 2122 units in the past month alone - a whopping 135 percent jump on the same month last year, when the ASX managed just 902 sales.

Kia is the other top-10 brand heading in the right direction, recording 4856 sales in February, up from 4664 in the same month last year. The results were enough for the Korean brand to post a modest (but impressive, given the circumstances) 3.4 percent lift in year-to-date sales.

Other known entities include VW-sibling Skoda, which is off to a cracker in 2019. Its 495 sales in February are up by 19 percent on this time last year, with the result helping boost year-to-date sales by 21 percent to 903 units - largely based on the Czech brand's push into SUVs.

Suzuki has started 2019 with a bang, too, with sales up 7.7 percent in February to 1601, and year-to-date results up just over one percent, at 3029 units moved. And Volvo executives would be doing backflips, with its sales up almost 50 percent on this month last year, with 634 sales, and almost 40 percent year to date, with 1065 vehicles sold. Happily for the Volvo, its truck division is reporting similar success.

Infiniti is heading in the right direction, too, with Nissan's premium division posting a 53.6 percent increase, month-on-month, to 43 sales - enough to record a 13.1 percent increase year to date. And fellow premium player Jaguar is up, too, with 164 sales in February, 18 percent more than the same month last year, while its 385 sales in 2019 is a 36 percent lift, year to date. Lexus is also heading north, with sales of the previously non-existent UX SUV lifting its monthly total from 724 in 2018 to 739 in February 2019, meaning a month-on-month increase of 2.1 percent and a year-to-date boost of 8.3 percent.

But perhaps most impressive is China's combined assault on the the new-car market. The Great Wall Steed's combined 68 sales, for example, were more than double the number sold in Feb 2018, meaning a 119 percent month-on-month gain, and a whopping 247 percent increase year to date, while Haval's 89 total sales equal a 71.2 percent month-on-month gain, while the brand's year-to-date tally is up 65.8 percent.

And that's not all; LDV is up, too (a total 530 sold, meaning a 37.7 percent increase on February last year, and a 3.7 percent increase year on year), and MG's 510 total sales equate to a whopping 794 percent increase on the 57 sold in February 2018. Predictably, then, the brand's year-to-date figure is looking good, too, posting a 820.9 percent increase.

The arrival of the Stelvio helped Alfa Romeo into positive territory in February, with the SUV's 47 sales helping lift the Italian brand to a 10 percent increase in year-to-date sales. While a sudden rush for the 300 sedan (37 sold in February) helped sister brand Chrysler to a 37.5 percent lift compared to the same month last year. A huge month for Ferrari (23 sales) saw the Italian brand boost it's month-on-month number by 43.8 percent, and it's year-to-date total by 11.6 percent.

Hino's increase is a little more modest, but no less valuable, posting 434 sales last month, 1.6 percent more than they managed in February last year. Hyundai's commercial vehicle arm might have managed just 13 sales, but it was over than 100 percent more than the six they sold in February 2018.

Kenworth managed a 6.3 percent increase, month-on-month, while Scania is up a whopping 101.5 percent, year to date. Mercedes-Benz Trucks are up 48.6 percent for February and 3.9 percent year to date, and Mercedes-Benz Vans (led by the X-Class 4x4) is reporting an impressive 25.5 percent month-on-month increase to 527 sales.

And suffice to say that Lotus' five total sales in February was, well, a lot more than the single unit it sold in February 2018, while Ram's 172 sales in Feb 2019 dwarfed its 14 sales in the same month last year, with both resulting in stratospheric percentage increases.

Did you buy one of the brand's bucking the trend in February? Tell us in the comments below.

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