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by Tim Beissmann

The Toyota Corolla has started 2011 as it finished 2010, beating the Holden Commodore to become the top-selling new vehicle in Australia for the third consecutive month.

In total, 4045 Corolla sedan and hatch variants were sold in January, a record for the first month of the year. As revealed in CarAdvice’s January 2011 VFACTS summary, the Commodore actually slipped to third for the month (2645 sales), behind the Mazda3 (3605).

It is the first time Corolla has maintained top spot on the Australian passenger vehicle sales charts for three months in a row, and the popular Japanese-built small car now leads the Commodore by more than 1000 vehicles after seven months of the 2010/2011 financial year.

Sales of Corolla and other Toyota vehicles were helped over the past few months by Toyota Australia’s cut-price financing offer, giving customers a 2.9 percent comparison rate for four years on selected new vehicles. The offer ended on January 31.

Toyota Australia’s senior executive director sales and marketing, David Buttner, admitted Toyota put significant effort into keeping the Corolla at the top of the charts.

“We supported Corolla strongly with advertising and marketing offers, just as our competitors did with their leading cars,” Mr Buttner said.

“Consumers have responded in such large numbers because Corolla is the right package for Australians of all ages.”

The Corolla had a 21.5 percent share of the small car segment in January, ahead of the Mazda3 (19.2 percent) and the Holden Cruze (11.0 percent).

Toyota’s total January sales result of 14,817 units represented a 1.7 percent increase compared with the first month of 2010, giving Toyota top position on the Australian sales charts for an almighty 70 consecutive months

It reversed the industry trend, where the average manufacturer lost 1.7 percent.

February’s results should give a clearer indication of Toyota’s true position in the 2011 new vehicle market, when there will be no more vehicles sold at the super-low finance rate.