The Mazda3 has retained its title as Australia’s most popular new car in 2012, claiming victory for the second consecutive year after a tight 12-month tussle with the Toyota HiLux.
The HiLux threatened to steal the crown earlier in the year after topping the sales charts in six of the first 10 months of the year, but a strong finish from Mazda’s small car saw it take the win 44,128 units to 40,646.
The Toyota Corolla completed a Japanese trifecta, climbing into third position overall with 38,799 sales. The Corolla looms as the most likely challenger to the Mazda3’s ambition of completing a three-peat in 2013, rolling into the New Year with plenty of momentum following the launch of the all-new model in October.
The Holden Commodore, Australia’s favourite car for 15 consecutive years between 1996 and 2010, slipped to fourth position – representing the first time a locally manufactured vehicle has missed the podium in decades. Its 30,532 sales (down 24.8 per cent compared with 2011) represented its worst performance in over 30 years.
The year was even grimmer for the Commodore’s traditional rival, the Ford Falcon. Ford sold just 14,036 Falcon sedans across the country this year, the worst result in the nameplate’s 53-year history. The Falcon ungracefully tumbled out of the top 20 models for the year (it finished 21st), and was relegated to fourth in the Blue Oval stable behind the compact Focus (18,586), Ranger (18,097) and Territory (14,646).
Despite declining sales of Australia’s historical favourites, 2012 was a new record for the industry, with 1,112,032 vehicles sold across the country. The figure represents a massive 10.3 per cent increase over 2011, and easily eclipses the previous record of 1,049,982 sales set in 2007.
The small and city car segments led the way with a combined 35.1 per cent share of the market, although the real growth came from SUVs and four-wheel-drive utes in 2012.
The compact SUV segment exploded 53.5 per cent last year on the back of the introduction the Subaru XV (9908), Jeep Compass (2898) and the Audi Q3 (1472), and double-digit growth by the Nissan Dualis (13,141) and the Volkswagen Tiguan (6871).
Overall SUV sales were up 25.3 per cent in 2012, with five models – Toyota Prado (17,045), Nissan X-Trail (16,066), Mazda CX-5 (15,861), Toyota RAV4 (14,651) and the Territory – filling places inside the overall top 20.
Australia’s love affair with 4×4 utes intensified, with sales up 24.7 per cent over 2011. Utes make up 15.6 per cent of the market, with the HiLux leading the charge ahead of the Nissan Navara (26,045), Mitsubishi Triton (18,502) and the Ranger.
Accounting for 35.9 per cent of total sales just 10 years ago, large cars now make up just 5.7 per cent of the market. The sub-$70K large segment shrunk 20.4 per cent in 2012 – the only shining lights being the Skoda Superb (up 280.7 per cent to 1085 sales) and the Australian-made Toyota Aurion, which climbed 1.8 per cent to 9074 and finished the year on a high by outselling the Falcon in December (1255 versus 1111).
The decline in large car sales was almost matched by the increase of the medium segment, which climbed 15.4 per cent. The Toyota Camry is the dominant player, with its 27,230 units accounting for almost one in three sales in the class. Surprisingly, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class ranked second in 2012 with 6676 sales, placing it ahead of the Mazda6 (6558), Honda Accord Euro (6155), BMW 3 Series (5493) and the Ford Mondeo (5203).
The Camry continued its recent form as the dominant locally manufactured vehicle in December, outselling the next-best Commodore 3586 units to 2198. In the final quarter of 2012, the Camry outsold the Commodore by 2804 units (10,110 versus 7306).
Affordable sports cars made a resurgence in 2012, too, with sales in the sub-$80K segment almost doubling to 15,830 vehicles. The Hyundai Veloster headed the pack with 4107 sales, followed by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe (2336) and the Toyota 86 (2047).
Last year saw 13,919 new hybrids hit Australian roads, up 57.8 per cent over 2011, as well as 253 electric vehicles, up from 49 in 2011.