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Why 2022 was a disappointing year for Hyundai, Nissan, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz

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2022 was a challenging year for Hyundai and several other brands.
2022 was a challenging year for Hyundai and several other brands.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which keeps track of every new car sold in Australia, described 2022 as an “unusual year” - which is a spectacular understatement.

While the world is still recovering from the peak of the global pandemic and the knock-on impact to global supply chains and shipping logistics, Australians were still rushing to buy new cars. As the peak body said in its recap of the 2022 sales data, demand out-stripped supply despite more than one-million cars being sold.

We’ve looked at the biggest winners from the 2022 sales race and now we’ve turned our analytical eye to the brand’s that endured a difficult year. Of course, each brand has its own story to tell as to why they didn’t sell more cars, with a lack of supply the most common refrain. But the fact remains each brand was playing in the same market and some did better than others.

Here, then, are the brands that will be happy to put 2022 in the rear-view mirror and motor into 2023.

Hyundai - up 0.6%

Santa Fe sales dropped by 9.0 per cent in 2022.
Santa Fe sales dropped by 9.0 per cent in 2022.

Hyundai technically finished with sales growth, but it was less than one percent (in a market that was up 3.0 per cent), and it meant a drop from third to fifth in the sales charts. Crucially, it was behind sister brand Kia, meaning Hyundai is no longer Australia’s most popular South Korean brand.

Publicly, the company put on a brave face, but it’s hard not to believe that getting beaten by your younger sibling doesn’t hurt.

Two of the company’s key models had significant sales declines in ‘22, with the i30 small car down 17.2 per cent and the Santa Fe large SUV dropping 9.0 per cent.

Still, the brand is confident of a bounce back this year based on the order bank it’s carrying. But it will need to ensure it has enough supply to meet that demand if it wants to put Kia back in its place and reclaim third spot on the sales charts. 

Nissan - down 35.8%

X-Trail sales were down 42.7 per cent in 2022.
X-Trail sales were down 42.7 per cent in 2022.

It was always going to be a transition year for the brand with its core line-up of SUVs - Qashqai, X-Trail and Pathfinder all being replaced by new models for 2023. But even so, Nissan took a big tumble in ‘22, dropping 35.8 per cent of its sales and falling from seventh on the sales chart to 12th - just ahead of GWM/Haval.

Almost every model in the range declined, with the exception of the Patrol and Pathfinder, with the latter hitting showrooms in the final months of the year. Although it didn’t have much to improve on, selling only 188 examples compared to the 146 it managed in ‘21.

Most notably, the biggest drops were by the Qashqai (down 90.6%), X-Trail (down 42.7%) and Navara 4x4 (down 32.3%). These are the key volume pieces for Nissan and typically a bad year from any one of them would be disappointing but all three at the same time is a major hit.

The good news is the brand enters ‘23 with the new Qashqai, X-Trail and Pathfinder so the key pieces are there for a major bounce back.

Lexus - down 23.7%

RX sales were down by 32.9 per cent in 2022.
RX sales were down by 32.9 per cent in 2022.

As we’ll explain further in a moment, it was a difficult year for luxury brands but Lexus was perhaps the most meaningful struggle was Lexus. Toyota’s premium brand lost ground to both Tesla and Volvo and is no longer the closest challenger to the German trio (Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi) that lead the industry.

Critically, two of its SUVs had big down years, the large RX dropped 29.1 per cent and compact UX had a 32.9 per cent decline. In addition it continued to feel the impact of losing the CT200h, IS and RC models previously, resulting in an overall decline of nearly 24 per cent.

Given the brand’s reputation and strength with hybrid models, it will be interesting to see if it can hit back in ‘23 and recover the lost ground to Tesla and Volvo.

Luxury brands

Mercedes-Benz was down 5.5 per cent on its ‘21 sales.
Mercedes-Benz was down 5.5 per cent on its ‘21 sales.

Not all luxury brands struggled, Tesla, Volvo, Porsche and Genesis all enjoyed sales growth, but the biggest names all had down years in ‘22. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Jaguar and Mini all declined as they struggled with the various issues impacting supply and the economic uncertainty with changing interest rates and an uncertain housing market.

Mercedes-Benz was down 5.5 per cent on its ‘21 sales, with the large GLE SUV down 30.4 per cent and the even larger GLS dropping 27.7 per cent. The A-Class, B-Class, C-Class coupe and convertible, E-Class and G-Class all had down years too.

Thankfully, the smaller CLA and GLA as well as GLC helped make up for struggles from the larger models, while the electric EQA, EQB and EQC also added growth.

BMW was down 8.8 per cent, primarily as a result of the popular 3 Series suffering a nearly 30 per cent (29.2%) sales decline, while its second biggest seller, the X5 SUV was also down (albeit only 2.0%). The smaller models struggled, with the X1, 1 Series and 2 Series Gran Coupe also down.

Audi sales dropped by 7.9 per cent, which allowed Tesla to overtake the brand on the sales charts. The biggest losers for the brand were the Q2 (down 58.2%), A4 (down 31.5%) and Q7 (down 26.8%). In fact, only the new A3 and the relatively low-volume A6, Q8 and e-tron models grew in sales.

Meanwhile, other luxury brands to struggle in ‘22 included Jaguar (42.7%), Land Rover (down 32.7%) and Mini (down 16.1%), so look for all of these brands to make a major push to recover lost ground in ‘23.

Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist
Steve has been obsessed with all things automotive for as long as he can remember. Literally, his earliest memory is of a car. Having amassed an enviable Hot Wheels and Matchbox collection as a kid he moved into the world of real cars with an Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Despite that questionable history he carved a successful career for himself, firstly covering motorsport for Auto Action magazine before eventually moving into the automotive publishing world with CarsGuide in 2008. Since then he's worked for every major outlet, having work published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,, Street Machine, V8X and F1 Racing. These days he still loves cars as much as he did as a kid and has an Alfa Romeo Alfasud in the garage (but not the same one as before... that's a long story).
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