SUVs almost outsold passenger cars in January

The day when SUVs become the new default vehicle appears more imminent than ever after a quick scan of January’s VFACTS registration data.
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According to the figures, passenger cars made up 35,214 of the total market’s 84,373 sales, enough for 41.7 per cent market share. This represents a fall, compared to January 2015, of 6.7 market share percentage points.

At the same time, SUVs grew 19.5 per cent in volume to 33,073 units, enough for 39.2 per cent share (up 5.5 market share percentage points). One year ago, the gap in market share between passenger cars and SUVs was 15 per cent. Now it’s 2.5 per cent.


Naturally you cannot draw a firm trend based on one month of sales, and poor months for passenger staples that do well in the fleet space such as the Toyota Camry — a victim of Toyota’s controversial decision to register hundreds of demos in December to meet 2015 targets — don’t help.

Nevertheless, this is the latest example of a trend that has been taking shape for years now.

What do we mean by ‘passenger cars’? VFACTS defines this space as any sort of light or small hatch or sedan, mid-sized and large sedans and wagons, coupes and convertibles, and people-movers.


In January 2016, registrations of Micro, Light, Small, Medium and Large passenger vehicles all fell by double digits, with only the niche Upper Large, plus general People Mover and Sports segments, growing.

At the same time, every single SUV category from Small through to Upper Large, grew by double digits.

Dig deeper into the figures and the picture changes slightly. In several instances, the premium end of the segments (such as Light above $25K, Small above $40K, and Upper Large above $100K) actually grew as well.


Last month, only four of the top-ten selling vehicles (Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf) were passenger cars, all of which belong in the Small segment.

The top-selling SUVs in January were the Hyundai Tucson (fifth overall) and Mazda CX-5 (seventh), though these were the only two in the top-ten. SUVs have a broader spread of sales. Four out of ten were light commercials (Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara).

The rest of the market’s sales were made up of light commercials (17.2 per cent share, up 1.4 points) and heavy commercials (1.9 per cent share, down 0.1).

Read more: January 2016 VFACTS new vehicle sales