2006 recorded the Australian automotive industry's second highest annual sales total on record. Early figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that a total of 962,521 cars, trucks and buses were sold in Australia in 2006.
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This figure is still not complete and reports suggest that it shall rise by around 200 when the December sales results of a heavy commercial vehicle distributor are included. The best year on record was 2005 with 988,269 cars sold, so this years result, whilst still the 2nd highest ever recorded, was 2.6 per cent down on 2005. However it was still7292 up on the previous (2nd best record) set in 2004.

Chief executive of the FCAI Peter Sturrock said that the result was excellent given the combined effects of interest rates and fuel prices.

"The rise and fall of fuel prices during 2006 was as unpredictable as it was dramatic and interest rate speculation created further uncertainty among consumers, so in those circumstances sales were encouragingly strong," he said.

Once again, (fourth time in a row) Toyota was the best-selling brand in 2006 with a 22.2 per cent share of the total market. It was followed by GM Holden (15.2 per cent), Ford (11.9 per cent) and Mazda (6.6 per cent), no manufacturers moved up or down from 2005.

Mitsubishi (5.6 per cent), Nissan (5.5 per cent) and Hyundai (4.8 per cent) dropped one spot each - all three leap-frogged by Honda (5.6 per cent) in an extremely tight sales tussle. Volkswagen moved into the top ten by taking the spot previously held by Kia.

So the results go:

  1. Toyota
  2. Holden
  3. Ford
  4. Mazda
  5. Honda
  6. Mitsubishi
  7. Nissan
  8. Hyundai
  9. Subaru
  10. VolksWagen

So whats changed with the 2006 sales figures, have large family cars really hit rock bottom? Not exactly rock bottom, but Australians both 30,775 less large cars in 2006 compared to 2005, whilst 10,632 less Medium SUVs found their way onto suburban roads.

The light car segment is what made up for the lack of sales in the large car segment as sales rose by 20,196 or 21.1 per cent while Small car sales remained much the same, up 1345 or 0.6 per cent.

"Light cars became more popular last year, not just because they were more fuel-efficient, but because they were roomier, more practical and better specified for the money than ever before," said Mr Sturrock.

Unfortunately though, whilst less large family cars found their way onto our roads, more Luxury SUVs were sold last year than in 2005 with a growth of about 1739 or 10.5 per cent. I guess its obvious though that whilst small and medium car segment continues to grow, the die hard large car lovers will be around for some time. This is evident with the 4X4 Pick-up/Cab Chassis segment increase of 4911 vehicles or 7.8 per cent.

"Australians have not fallen out of love with large cars and in common with almost every other market in the world it is likely that we will continue to buy the most space, power and performance that we can afford. We think many of these four-wheel drive utes are being bought as much for private use as a tool-of-trade," Mr Sturrock

In contrast, the Light Truck market as a whole, declined slightly by 6087 vehicles or 3.6 per cent.

What is going to happen in 2007? Whilst its going to be a relatively quite year from the big three (Holden, Ford and Toyota) new imported models continue to land on our shores, with that in mind and the general trend of car sales not slowing down, the FCAI is forecasting a steady outlook for 2007 with motor vehicle sales of 970,000.

"Notwithstanding recent rises, interest rates remain relatively low by historical standards and most new motor vehicles offer consumers compelling value for money, so we believe the market will continue to travel at its current high speed," he said.

We look forward to 2007 being another record year for car sales. It will be interesting to see the future of Mitsubishi by the end of 2007 as well, as more and more rumors spread of their inevitable demise.