But what brands grew well above the market average? Here we list the top 10 growth brands, by raw numerical sales increase. We’ll also mention the most-improved by percentage, giving smaller-volume auto-makers a bit of love.
Ford — 81,207 units, up by 10,753
It was the year of the Blue Oval. Ford, in its final year as a maker of cars in Australia — as opposed to a full importer — bounced back after years of losses. Growth of 15 per cent gave it 81,207 sales, making it a clear fifth behind Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Holden.
Sales were led by the Ranger, the nation’s fourth most popular vehicle overall (behind the Toyota HiLux and Corolla, and Hyundai i30) with almost 37,000 sales, up about 30 per cent. The Ford truck even outsold the Mazda 3, the sales champion in 2012.
Ford’s other big growers were the brand new Mustang (6208 new sales, and an utter dominance of the sports car market), the Ranger-based Everest SUV (sales tripled to 3614) and the Mondeo (3122, up almost 50 per cent), offsetting losses elsewhere.
Kia — 42,668 units, up by 8932
The Korean brand was the fastest grower among volume brands, breaking into the overall top 10 ahead of Mercedes-Benz and Honda, bolstered by a slick new model range, growing awareness and an industry-leading seven-year warranty.
Leading the charge was the new Sportage SUV (10,924, up 44 per cent) and the aged but well-priced Cerato (13,111, up 29 per cent). The Picanto also added 1934 sales, while the Carnival (4777) and Sorento (4202) both grew a handsome 31 per cent.
Given the brand new Kia Rio arrives this month, and the new Picanto before the mid-way point of the year, expect continued strength from the brand.
Mercedes-Benz — 41,226 units, up by 4852
Long-time Australian luxury leader — and now the global number one as well — Mercedes-Benz, just keeps on growing apace. With 41,226 sales this year, it easily beat BMW (28,028) and Audi (24,258), and its growth of 13 per cent actually extended this gap.
This is all the more interesting considering its top-seller, the C-Class sedan and wagon (6816 units) fell by 27 per cent.
Mazda — 118,217 units, up by 4193
Australia’s top full importer, and the overall market number two, grew by almost four per cent this year to break its all-time record.
Leading the way was the CX-3, up by 5678 units to 18,334 and class leadership, offsetting a drop in Mazda 3 sales of 2537 units (to 36,107). Also strong were the CX-9 (up by 1739 units as the new version flies off lots), BT-50 (up 1004) and MX-5 (up 66 units to a record-breaking 1577).
The CX-5 was again the nation’s top-selling SUV (24,564 units), though sales fell 2.4 per cent as competition intensified. However, a brand new version will lob in Australia before year’s end...
Subaru — 47,018 units, up by 3418
Subaru broke its sales record in 2016, alongside so many other brands, with 47,018 units representing eight per cent growth. It was led by the new Levorg (1621), plus its SUV range — the Forester (up by 1378 units), XV (up by 1122) and Outback (up by 1280).
With the much more competitive new Impreza now in showrooms, and the new XV due mid-year, we’d imagine Subaru will be edging 50,000 annual sales by the end of 2017.
Toyota — 209,610 units, up by 3374
Toyota managed to grow at about the market average in 2016, keeping it a country mile ahead of Mazda in top spot. The HiLux and Corolla were the top-two cars in the country, though sales of the latter dipped four per cent.
Showing good growth were the Fortuner (up 2733 units), HiLux (up about 7000 units), LandCruiser wagon (up a whopping 2611 units) and the RAV4 (up 1091). This offset declines in sales of the 86, Camry, Kluger and ageing Yaris.
Given the imminent arrival of the C-HR crossover, you’d expect Toyota to continue to be strong in 2017. Indeed, the company projects more than 200,000 deliveries again, though anticipates a drop in Camry sales as local production winds up before year's end.
BMW — 28,028 units, up by 3006
Bavarian powerhaus BMW is a long way behind Mercedes-Benz, but its growth of 12 per cent this year was still impressive.
Also up were the X3 (an extra 1018 sales), 1 Series (260), 2 Series coupe/convertible (up 257), 7 Series (up 200), X4 (up 615) and Z4 (up 129 units thanks to huge discounts). This offset drops from the 2 Series Active Tourer, 4 Series and 5 Series. X5 was steady on 4181.
Isuzu Ute — 23,377 units, up 2393
It only has two models to sell, but Isuzu Ute is now a top-15 player in the market and managed a hugely impressive 23,377 sales, up more than 11 per cent.
The D-Max mainstay did 16,359 units. In the 4x4 ute market it finished sixth (ahead of the Mazda BT-50 and Volkswagen Amarok), while in the 4x2 market it managed 5038 sales (up 51 per cent) to finish third behind the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
Jaguar — 3008 units, up 1716
132.8 per cent. That’s the amount of percentage growth achieved by Jaguar last year.
Land Rover — 13,597 units, up 1712
The other half of the JLR family had a monster 2017, recording more sales than Jeep. The Discovery Sport led the charge, with 4432 sales (up 2309), placing it second in segment behind the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Also up were the Range Rover Evoque (up by 411) and Range Rover Sport (up 238), offsetting drops from the now-dead Land Rover Defender (down 548), and the soon-to-be-replaced Land Rover Discovery (down 445).
Top-ten growth brands by percentage:
- McLaren — up 158.3 per cent to 93
- Jaguar — up 132.8 per cent to 3008
- LDV — up 101 per cent to 1542
- Lamborghini — up 51.2 per cent to 127
- Infiniti — up 40.6 per cent to 807
- Kia — up 26.5 per cent to 42,668
- Rolls-Royce — up 23.3 per cent to 37
- Volvo Car — up 18.9 per cent to 5878
- Bentley — up 20.3 per cent to 190
- Ford — up 15.3 per cent to 81,207