Small SUVs, tier-two luxury players, and brands from China all had cracking months. Mazda and Holden, though? Not so much.
The Australian new car market has been softening most of this year. It's not panic stations, but sales have been declining since April, and the year-to-date (YTD) figure is down 0.9 per cent over last year's record haul, to 881,005 units.
You can read all about September's haul in intense detail here, where we talk about the top brands, top models, and break down sales by segments. But here we'll look at five other things to talk about.
SUVs still booming, especially the little ones
Look, you could argue catch-all terms like ‘passenger car’ and ‘SUV’ are past their used-by date, but for now we’ll retain them.
Buyers after a higher driving position are voting with their wallets and feet, given SUV sales actually grew 6 per cent in September, and owned almost 44 per cent market share. Seven of the top 15 models in the country were SUVs, from the small Mitsubishi ASX to the biiiig Toyota Prado.
Passenger cars (meaning hatches, sedans, sport cars and people-movers) fell an alarming 20% in volume concurrently, and dropped to 32% market share, while utes and vans (light commercial vehicles) nabbed about 20% share.
The best performance was from the small SUV class (ASX, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Nissan Qashqai, Mercedes-Benz GLA etc) that grew 26% in volume. About one-in-seven of all new vehicles sold fit into this sprawling, diverse class of 32 contenders.
Nissan, Mitsubishi bucked the trend:
These ‘alliance’ partners were the two biggest growers in volume terms in September, up 1165 and 557 units apiece. Put another way, in the overall sales charts Mitsubishi finished third (behind Toyota and Hyundai) and Nissan fifth (ahead of Ford, behind Mazda).
Mitsubishi sold 7622 vehicles (up 8%), the ASX was the top SUV in the land with 2128 sales, the Eclipse Cross managed 807 of its own and together this pair gave the company a massive 25% share of the mainstream Small SUV market, and the humble Triton ute was the seventh top-selling vehicle in the market, and the #3 ute behind HiLux and Ranger.
Nissan grew a very impressive 29% (admittedly over a crap September 2017 haul), with the X-Trail (1908) and Navara 4x4 (1374) owning about 60% of its sales. It may offer fewer models these days, but Nissan’s up 3% this year, and could argue its more focused approach is working.
Holden can't take a trick, Mazda plummets:
Aussie icon (now full importer) Holden finished 10th in market, between Volkswagen and Honda. Its sales dropped 32.4% over September 2017, and its market share didn’t even hit 5%. Granted, it was just one of many brands to battle.
Mazda fell 31.5% and finished an unusually low fourth ('M Day' sales were in August, and the comedown was obviously mega).
The greatest chunk of Holden's fall in sales can be chalked up to the Commodore, with 672 sales last month compared to 2547 in September 2017, when its time as a locally made product (VFII) was winding up. That’s to be expected.
Astra’s 1049 sales (up 31%) was a clear positive, ditto Colorado’s good growth. But the Equinox (1.9% Medium SUV market share) is doing poorly, and the Trax Small SUV went backwards 32% in a segment that’s way up. And given the Lion brand nearly left the top 10 altogether, there’s clearly a problem here…
Meantime Mazda saw drops in every single model line of between 21% and 55%, excluding the CX-8 that wasn't on sale last year. It's not quite a trend, but is it a blip? We shall see...
More Australians are turning to China:
There were 1027 China-made cars registered locally in September, more than triple the number in the same month last year. The total was about the same as French- and Italian-made cars combined.
LDV led the charge with 542, more than Skoda and Jeep. Its big fish was the T60 4x4 ute with 278 units, almost triple the Mercedes X-Class, ahead of the LDV G10 van on 160. Its overall volume grew 157%.
Fellow SAIC subsidiary MG Motor sold 383 cars, up from only 40 in September last year. The ZS crossover (178) and MG3 city car (105) led the charge. Great Wall also climbed 56%, albeit to a lower gross of 56 Steed utes.
Haval dragged the chain, down 18% to just 46 units, though its new seven-year warranty may help turn things around a bit.
Smaller Euro luxury brands on the up:
A down real-estate market (among other factors) has seen the big luxury players Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW take hits in 2018, and once again the German powerhouses battled in September. But smaller premium players, revitalised by a swathe of new products, went in a more positive direction.
Alfa Romeo (thanks to Stelvio and Giulia) grew 18% to 112 units, Jaguar (E-Pace and a strong run of XF regos) shot up 65% to an impressive 276 units, and Volvo Car grew 117% to a whopping 682 units thanks to its XC40, XC60 and XC90 SUVs.
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