Australia’s top-selling vehicle eclipses the 50,000 mark for the first time in 10 years as car sales hit the brakes
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The Toyota HiLux ute has shattered its previous sales record after posting the highest annual tally of any vehicle for the past decade.

Preliminary figures for 2018 show the Toyota HiLux eclipsed 50,000 sales for the first time ever – overtaking the peak of 47,093 set in 2017 and the previous high of 42,956 set in 2008.

The last vehicle to top the 50,000 mark was the Holden Commodore in 2008, with 51,093 sales.

It is the third year in a row the HiLux has earned the title of Australia’s top-selling vehicle, finishing 2018 comfortably ahead of the Ford Ranger ute.

The small-car trio of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30 rounded out the top five in 2018.

Toyota attributes the HiLux’s sales growth to the arrival of three top-end models – the Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X – and sharp discounts on its former flagship, the HiLux SR5.

For much of the year the HiLux SR5 was available for $52,990 drive-away with auto – about $9000 off its full RRP – as a discount war with the Ford Ranger intensified.

In the end, the HiLux clocked up its 21st year as Australia’s top selling commercial vehicle but it was also the top-selling car outright in Western Australia for the 11th year in a row, in Queensland for the 12th straight year and in the Northern Territory for the 18th successive year.

The Corolla ranked third overall in 2018 but was the top selling passenger car for the sixth year in a row (since wrestling top spot from the Mazda3 in 2013).

Meanwhile the Toyota Camry was the top-selling mid-sized sedan for the 25th year in a row, despite switching to a fully imported model after the end of local manufacturing at the end of 2017.

Official VFACTS figures to be released on Friday by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries will show 2018 was the 22nd time Toyota has led the Australian car market – including the past 16 years in a row – and the 14th time it has sold more than 200,000 vehicles in a calendar year. Toyota remains the only brand to eclipse the 200,000 mark locally.

However, overall the new-car market slowed for the 10th successive month, preliminary figures show, with an annual tally close to 1.16 million – down from 1,189,116 in 2017, the third record year in a row.

Official figures will also show that while Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai cemented their position as the Top Three brands, the order has changed dramatically off the podium.

Mitsubishi is understood to have eclipsed its previous record of 81,651 set in 1998 and now ranks in fourth place ahead of both Ford and Holden for the first time ever – after overtaking Ford in 2017.

While Ford sales were down for the second year in a row the Blue Oval brand turned the tables on its former rival Holden, which posted its eighth year in a row in decline (click here for the story).

In 2018 Ford outsold Holden for the first time in 21 years – since 1997, which was also the last time Ford led the entire new-car market.

Check back on Friday for our detailed coverage of 2018 sales winners and losers.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling