Australians are buying new cars at almost the same rate as this time last year – to pre-coronavirus levels – as the industry remains hopeful the worst is behind it and there is a clear road ahead.
Official sales figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show new-car sales in October 2020 were down by just 1.5 percent compared with the same month the previous year, with 81,220 vehicles reported as sold versus 82,456 in October 2019.
Four of the Top 10 brands posted sales increases, as the industry grows optimistic about a market recovery.
Despite the relatively strong performance, it was nevertheless the 31st month in a row of year-on-year decline – the longest continuous slump since the Global Financial Crisis.
It was the weakest October result in 10 years – since 2010 – but it was the third-best monthly result so far this year.
Year-to-date, new-car sales are down by 18.8 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2019, with 726,111 vehicles reported as sold so far in 2020.
The state of Victoria – historically the second-biggest car market – once again recorded the nation’s biggest sales slowdown, with 17,594 new cars reported as sold (versus 24,535 for the same month last year), a decline of 28.3 percent.
However Victorian dealers have reported strong interest after lockdowns eased towards the end of the month, and the early prospects of a recovery in the coming months are good.
By comparison, new-car sales in NSW were up by 6.2 percent, while Queensland was up by 11.7 percent, South Australia was up by 14.5 percent and West Australia was up by 17 percent.
The Northern Territory was up by 27.7 percent due to an increase in mining and tourism business, while the Australian Capital Territory was up by 28.1 percent, as insurance companies continued to replace motor vehicles written off in severe storms earlier this year.
After leading the first six months of this year, the Toyota HiLux ute returned to the top of the monthly sales charts after being beaten by the Toyota RAV4 mid-size SUV and Ford Ranger ute for the past three months in a row.
Another sign the economy is moving again: utes filled three of the Top Six sales spots.
The new Isuzu D-Max ute finished sixth outright – its highest monthly result ever and the first time it has ranked third among its ute peers – behind the Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive in fourth and Toyota Corolla small car in fifth.
The figures show buyers continue to favor utes and SUVs; anecdotal feedback from dealers claim it is because more motorists plan to holiday at home amid international travel restrictions.
Other customers are treating themselves to a fancier car than they would otherwise buy, rather than go on an overseas holiday, say dealers.
“After a very challenging year, we are seeing ‘green shoots’ in the Australian new-vehicle market,” said Tony Weber, the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, in a media statement.
Mr. Weber said the results were “welcome news”. “Every state and territory except Victoria and Tasmania have seen significant growth and, given the circumstances, Victoria’s result is seen as encouraging,” he said.
“However, the green shoots that we are seeing in October give us great hope that we may begin to see further recovery during the coming months.”
Mr. Weber said Federal Government initiatives “such as a constructive budget that included the instant asset write off, along with more accessible finance for consumers, is also acting as a welcome stimulus for the industry”.
The type of cars we are buying continues to evolve. SUVs and four-wheel-drives once again represented more than half of new vehicle sales for the month (50.8 percent, after an increase of 6.7 percent) while utes and van accounted for 23.6 percent of total sales (and as a category were up by 11.6 percent).
Passenger car sales, however, shrunk to 21.9 percent of the total market, down 24.5 percent from October 2019.
Market leader Toyota posted a 14.8 percent increase in sales in October 2020 compared to the same month the prior year, reporting 19,505 vehicles as sold after revealing its dealers had written 22,500 orders last month.
Toyota maintained a comfortable lead over second-placed Mazda which also posted a sales gain (of 17.1 percent), however third-place Hyundai was hit hard, down by 20.2 percent compared to the same month last year.
Ford, which was the last number one in Australia in 1997, ranked fourth in October 2020 after posting a 17.4 percent sales increase on the back of good supply of – and orders for – its Ranger ute.
Kia rounded out the Top Five after posting a 4.8 percent increase compared to the same month last year.
Mitsubishi (down by 6.3 percent) retained sixth place for the second month in a row after ranking fifth in August and third on the monthly sales charts in July for only the seventh time in its history.
The luxury-car sector continued to reveal mixed results in October 2020.
Mercedes-Benz made it into the Top 10 for the second month in a row – finishing in 10th in October after ranking ninth in September – despite posting a monthly decline of 11.5 percent.
BMW, which had earlier in the year made a strong showing in the Top 10 after registering a large number of demonstrator models and company cars to boost its numbers, again fell outside the Top 10.