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Toyota HiLux tops Australian sales charts in 2016

Australia's love affair with one-tonne utes can't be denied, with the Toyota HiLux being crowned 2016's most popular model.

Toyota's HiLux is the unprecedented king of the new-car market as SUV sales continue to close the gap on traditional passenger cars in a record 2016 vehicle sales year.

In a year of shake-ups in the automotive industry, 1.178 million vehicles were sold and the HiLux pushed long-standing winner – and stablemate – Corolla into second spot.

In fact, three utes from Thailand made it into the top-10 best sellers, including the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton at fourth and ninth respectively.

In the brand ladder, Toyota retained number one spot followed by Mazda, Hyundai, Holden and Ford.

Sales for the year were up 2.0 per cent on 1.155 million sold in the calendar year of 2015, marking the seventh year of consecutive million-plus sales, according to official VFACTS sales figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the data showed a continuing trend to SUVs as the market entered a significant transition.

"While buyer demand for traditional passenger cars remains healthy, it is clear consumers are gradually transitioning into other segments," he said.

Toyota claimed the top position with sales up 1.6 per cent on 2015 at a record 206,610 units. It is Toyota's 14th successive year as market leader and the fifth time it has breached the 200,000 threshold.

Second-placed Mazda also had a record of 118,217 units, up 3.7 per cent, to win over third-placed Hyundai with 101,555 sales.

Holden recorded 94,308 sales for the year, and closing out the top five was Ford on 81,207 sales.

SUV sales for the year finished at 441,017, a rise of eight per cent on 2015, closing in on passenger cars with 481,257, which declined 5.7 per cent over 2015.

The biggest upset has been the spectacular interest in utes.

A notable stand out in the SUV market was the upper large segment – which includes the Toyota LandCruiser, Lexus LX and Nissan Patrol – that increased sales by 27.1 per cent.

In contrast, the upper large passenger car segment made the biggest fall, down 23.3 per cent on 2015 as buyers either left the sector or switched to SUVs.

Australians also showed their sensitivity to petrol prices, abandoning diesels, electric vehicles and LPG as petrol prices slumped through the year.

Private passenger car buyers ignored LPG (down 65.8 per cent in sales compared with 2015) and diesel (down 29.5 per cent), while electric vehicles including plug-in models fell 69 per cent. The fall in LPG sales was also attributed to Ford Australia ending its local model range that included some LPG-fuelled models.

But the biggest upset has been the spectacular interest in utes.

Though the HiLux has been a strong seller on the market – picking up monthly sales wins on two occasions – the main reason for its popularity has been its transformation from a workhorse to a family-friendly vehicle.

Sales of 4WD utes rose 9.6 per cent last year, eclipsing the 8.1 per cent rise in their 2WD counterparts.

The HiLux sales were helped by a major facelift and a new drivetrain in 2016 that came at a time when interest was waning in traditional cars.

Though the ute is our best seller, it has actually performed better in previous years. It sold 42,104 in 2016 but had sales of close to 48,000 in 2008.

Holden's sales slide continued in 2016 but Ford reversed its previous decline despite the end of the locally-built Falcon and Territory.

Its success was based mainly on the Ranger ute and its SUV spin-off, the Everest. Ford posted 81,207 sales, up 6.5 per cent on 2015.

The Ranger clocked 36,934 sales – a record for the model – which was just 5170 units behind HiLux.

Mazda's second place was attributed to the CX-5 – the nation's top-selling SUV – though the previous popularity of its Mazda3 fell away, down 6.6 per cent to 36,107 units for fifth place behind Ranger.

Hyundai's growth slowed in 2016 while Kia jumped into the top 10 for the first time, its sales rocketing 26.5 per cent to a record 42,668.

Honda fell out of 10th place this year, even though it edged up 1.8 per cent to 40,838 sales.

Can Australia's upward sales trajectory continue in the near future or are we due for a decline? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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