What’s hot and what’s not in the new car industry
Dealer arms won't need much twisting this month, as the dramatic slowdown in car sales continues. Here's what's hot and what's not in showrooms.
It's beginning to look a lot like America on our roads these days. They may call them pick-ups in the States and utes Down Under but the principles are the same: dual-purpose vehicles that mix work and play. This month utes took out the top three spots on the sales charts, relegating the once-loved hatchback to also-ran. The Toyota HiLux remains king of the worksites, followed by Ford's Ranger and the resurgent Mitsubishi Triton.
Mitsubishi had the same number of vehicles in the top 10 as Toyota in March. Its recently updated Triton was third, the ASX city SUV was ninth and the old stager Outlander was 10th. In a market that is down by almost 8 per cent, Mitsubishi sales are up by almost 20 per cent. It's a remarkable achievement given the ageing line-up at its disposal but it demonstrates that as much as buyers like the latest and greatest, the combination of sharp pricing and loads of equipment is irresistible.
Short of another Ice Age, it appears nothing will unseat this dinosaur from Australian driveways. It was the eighth most popular nameplate in the country last month, if you combine sales of the 200 Series wagon and 70 series ute, as the official Vfacts sales figures do. It may be outdated and unwieldy in the city but there's no doubting the tough-as-nails off-roader has a cult following. If you add the smaller LandCruiser Prado to the total, it's second only to the HiLux in popularity.
The expression "family car" is in danger of becoming obsolete, such is the rush to SUVs and utes. Passenger car sales fell by almost 20 per cent last month. In the first quarter of this year, sales are off by 17.8 per cent. Toyota's new Corolla continues to struggle to attract buyers - sales are down by almost a quarter this year - while Volkswagen's Golf and Honda's Civic have also suffered declines. Supply problems have decimated sales of the Subaru Impreza, which has attracted a third of the buyers it did in the same period last year.
The spectacular fall from grace continues. Holden now sits in 10th place on the sales charts, a far cry from the heady days when the home-grown Commodore ruled the roost and people who couldn't afford one bought a cheaper stablemate. Sales of the Commodore sedan and Astra hatch are roughly half what they were this time last year. The brand's SUV line-up isn't setting the world on fire either. The one bright spot is the Colorado ute, which accounts for roughly four out of every 10 Holdens sold.
It seems real estate agents aren't turning over their luxury rides as regularly now the housing market has tanked. Audi sales are down by more than a quarter in the first three months of this year and Mercedes-Benz sales have dipped by 15 per cent. BMW has largely been shielded from the downturn courtesy of an new X5 SUV and a lucrative contract supplying the Victorian and NSW Highway Patrol forces with expensive 5 Series limousines. Unhappily for BMW, other states have shown a little more financial restraint, choosing cheaper Kias and Holdens.