There has never been a better time to buy a new car
BANG for your buck has never been better when buying a new car.
With 68 brands fighting for market share, the consumer is the winner.
Australia is the most competitive automotive market in the world.
Holden boss Mike Devereux said this was due to three key factors: "Very strong currency, zero tariff barriers and a sophisticated market."
He recognises currency and tariff issues have had a hefty impact on his business, but the strength of the Aussie dollar also enables Holden to export cars built at Elizabeth in South Australia.
Traditional players such as Ford, Holden and Toyota are faced with competition like never before.
New Chinese brands such as Great Wall, Geely, Foton and Chery are chipping away at the bargain end of the market, while German brand Opel arrived last year, as did premium marque Infiniti - the luxury arm of Nissan.
Post-global financial crisis and in the wake of uncertainty in the United States and Europe, Australians have been conservative with spending. And carmakers have been dangling the carrot.
"There is this huge pool of savings out there. If you have the right product or a compelling value message, you can tap into it - and that is exactly what's happening with the car industry," Mazda's chief executive Doug Dickson said.
Standard features are rapidly improving across all genres. Warranties with roadside assist are longer and servicing costs are capped by many manufacturers - some are even offering free maintenance for three years.
Nissan's recently re-released Pulsar is a perfect example of how far things have come. Back in 1996 the compact sedan was $19,990 with "luxuries" like central locking and air-conditioning.
For the same price now you still get the central locking and air-con, as well as cruise control, alloy wheels, much improved driving experience and life-saving safety features such as six airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes.
Market analysts are forecasting another record sales year, up slightly to 1.116 million during 2013.
LOOK around, we are currently experiencing one of the most seismic shifts seen in the Australian automotive industry.
Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are in vogue. It's the fastest-growing segment as they have become the transport of choice for families across the nation.
Passenger cars still owned more than half of the market last year, but SUVs lifted their share by 3.3% to 27.5% and the growth is in double digits so far this year.
Large cars are being shunned; the Australian-made Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are declining rapidly in the sales race as drivers move into SUVs and smaller cars.
During 2012, six of the top 10 selling cars came from the small or light segment. Commodore was once our biggest-selling car for 15 consecutive years, but last year it slipped to fourth and was the only large car in the top 10.
The Mazda3 was Australia's favourite showroom selection ahead of the Toyota HiLux and Corolla pairing.
But it's the shift to SUVs which is grabbing most attention from the manufacturers.
In the past six months we've seen new releases and updates to meet our insatiable appetite for the high-riding wagons.
Mitsubishi updated the Outlander, Subaru then took the wraps off its new Forester, Toyota last month unveiled its fourth-generation RAV4 and Mazda also updated its popular CX-5.
Ford will launch its offensive with a new Kuga range in April, while new compact SUV launches will come via the Holden Trax, Nissan Juke and Opel Mokka later this year.