They might not be fighting for top spot but there’s been a big upset in the Holden versus Ford battle.
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Ford fans have a big reason to cheer in the New Year.

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 (at the time the end of a three-year winning streak).

While both brands are now outside the Top Four – and preliminary figures show 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.

Strong sales of the Ford Ranger ute – which finished 2018 second outright in the new-car sales race behind the Toyota HiLux – and Mustang sports car helped Ford overtake its long time rival.

Ford pulled ahead of Holden in the year-to-date sales race in February and increased its lead over Holden in every subsequent month.

Ford would have had a clean sweep – winning every month of the year in 2018 – had Holden not declared more cars than it actually sold in January.

Holden’s biggest-selling model in 2018 was the Colorado ute followed by the Astra and Commodore, which are almost level pegged.

The Commodore is selling at less than half the rate of the locally-made model that ended production in late 2017.

However, there is a silver lining for the Commodore: the imported model accounted for about 75 per cent of sales of the nameplate in 2018, according to confidential industry figures.

And in a shock for some industry observers, more private buyers purchased an imported Commodore than one of the last locally-made models in 2018, albeit by a slim margin.

Meanwhile, as we have reported in a separate news story, the Toyota HiLux ute 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.

Official VFACTS figures to be released on Friday by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries are expected to show the new-car market slowed for the 10th successive month, with an annual tally close to 1.16 million – down from 1,189,116 in 2017, the third record year in a row.

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