Expected quiet month for Toyota sees Mercedes overtake

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In what could be seen as a sign of things to come, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the nation’s top-selling mid-sized vehicle in January.

The German luxury car — many of which are actually made in South Africa — outsold the locally made fleet-favourite, Toyota’s Camry, 651 units to 580. The Camry’s 580 figure compares to 4850 in December.

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The Toyota generally enjoys more than 50 per cent market share at the lower end of the segment, but dropped off markedly last month because the company registered a huge batch in December as demonstrators, and is now clearing stocks.

The same phenomena occurred in 2016, where sales dropped from 5321 in December 2015 to 503 in January 2016.

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Toyota has had to keep annual production high in order to gain enough scale to keep its Altona factory open until October this year, a goal it has now achieved. From November this year it'll import a Camry from Japan instead.

Industry stats counter VFACTS splits the medium passenger market into two price bands — sub-$60k and above $60k. The Camry and Mazda 6 usually top the former, and the C-Class the latter.

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The trend of luxury brands over-performing in the mid-sized car segment continued beyond Mercedes last month. The BMW 3 Series (270) was the third top-selling medium car of any type, ahead of the Ford Mondeo (251, up 41 per cent).

Behind the Ford was the Mazda 6 (250), just ahead of the Mercedes-Benz CLA (244) and Audi A4 (234), both of which outpointed the cheaper Subaru Liberty (210), Skoda Octavia (162), Volkswagen Passat (140), Lexus IS (117) and Subaru Levorg (109).

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Smaller-volume players included the Jaguar XE (93), Kia Optima (73), BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe (71), Holden Malibu (57), Hyundai Sonata (37), Nissan Altima (35), Audi A5 Sportback (35) and Honda Accord (34). A mixed bag.

Medium car sales as a whole across all price bands dropped 11.2 per cent last month over January 2016, with a combined market share of 4.5 per cent — less than half that of the small SUV market.