February 2017 sales figures show that vehicles classified as SUVs outsold passenger cars in Australia over the course of a whole month, for the first time, representing a notable market shift.
That said, the gap between passenger cars — sedans, hatches, wagons, coupes, convertibles and people-movers — and higher-riding SUVs has been narrowing, so this development was just a matter of time.
VFACTS figures released today and compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that 35,497 SUVs were registered as sold during February, compared to 34,740 passenger cars.
This makes the respective market shares 39.9 per cent and 39 per cent. Year-to-date, both have mathematically equal 40 per cent market shares, though passenger car sales are cumulatively 36 units higher.
Light commercials were the third largest segment in February with 18.5 per cent share, led by the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
To give you some idea of the massive growth in SUV popularity, the respective market shares of passenger cars and SUVs just five years ago were 54.5 per cent and 28 per cent.
FCAI CEO Tony Weber described February’s results as part of the evolution of the market over many years.
“The steady, demonstrable shift in consumer preference which has been occurring in the past few years has culminated in this February outcome,” he said.
“Of course, this one monthly outcome doesn’t signal a landslide but clearly Australian buyers are attracted by the features and capabilities of new-generation SUVs..."
As you can read in more detail, the overall market tumbled 7.7 per cent in February 2017 against the same month last year, though 2016's figure was buoyed by an additional selling day.
The biggest loser was the passenger car market, falling 12.2 per cent to 34,740 units, or down 4818 units. SUV sales only dropped 3.7 per cent, to 35,497.
The most popular SUV segment was, as always, the Medium SUV market with 14,611 units last month, second overall behind small cars.
Volume leaders were the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson, while at the premium end, the Land Rover Discovery Sport continues to boom.
Australians purchased 11,143 Large SUV models last month, led by the Toyota Prado, Holden Captiva and Subaru Outback in volume, and at the top end by the Range Rover Sport and BMW X5.
Small SUV sales shrank 11 per cent last month but still accounted for 8540 sales, 25 per cent higher than light cars. The Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V led sales, while at the top end the BMW X1 is the reigning champion.
For a contrarian's opinion on why we need to re-think the whole notion of classifying vehicles as SUV or passenger cars, read here.
SALES OF ITS SUV RANGE
TOP-SELLING MODELS FOR FEBRUARY 2017
Mazda CX-5 (SUV)
Toyota RAV4 (SUV)
Hyundai Tucson (SUV)
Nissan X-Trail (SUV)
Mazda CX-3 (SUV)
Toyota Prado (SUV)