Ford and Holden are yet to shut their factories, but Australians are already treating themselves to imported luxury cars because we now feel less guilty about it, says expert.
Car buyers are gorging themselves on luxury brands because the closure of Ford and Holden factories within the next two years has "removed the guilt of not buying Australian".
That's the claim from one of Australia's leading marketing experts as the latest figures show the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is now the second-biggest selling mid-size sedan after the Toyota Camry.
In fact, more people are now buying a Mercedes ahead of other family favourites such as the Subaru Liberty, Mazda6 and Honda Accord.
Record low interest rates have helped bring down the cost of car repayments -- and an increasing number of luxury vehicles from Audi, BMW and Mercedes are priced about the same as the top end versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
"Luxury cars are more affordable than ever before, they're at a price people can get to and, of course, with the end of vehicle manufacturing, you've removed the guilt of not buying Australian," says David Chalke from AustraliaScan, a market research firm that monitors changing public attitudes.
"One of the big drivers is … people loosening their belts after the Global Financial Crisis," says Chalke. "During the GFC we all tightened our belts, there was a high level of uncertainty even though Australia was largely unaffected.
"We cut back, stopped spending and deferred a lot of purchases. Now we want to splash out," he said.
People are still wise with their money, but they're now prepared to spend it, says Chalke.
Mercedes has sold more than 6500 luxury C-Class sedans so far this year, despite a starting price of $60,000.
"We don't want to waste money but we see premium products as a good investment, and so we justify it that way, even though we don't really need a luxury car."
According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Mercedes has sold more than 6500 luxury C-Class sedans so far this year, despite a starting price of $60,000.
That tally puts the Mercedes behind the Toyota Camry but comfortably ahead of the Mazda6, which has recorded 3600 deliveries to date.
Even the BMW 3 Series sedan now outsells a mainstream model, with 2800 buyers edging it ahead of the Subaru Liberty (with 2700 sales) so far this year.
Overall sales of Audi are up 17.5 per cent, BMW is up by 13.9 per cent and Mercedes has had a 20 per cent boost at a time when the total new-car market has grown by just 3.2 per cent, official figures show.