Australia's most dominant cars

Which vehicles dominate their segments in our generally close-fought new car market?
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Sales charts for the Australian car industry are broadly broken up into categories or segments, pitting like-for-like vehicles against one another.

By analysing these segments it becomes clear a number of them are dominated by a single player. For every segment that’s closely fought between a number of competitors, there’s one that… isn’t.

Considering Australia is one of the single-most fragmented and competitive new car markets in the world, with 65 car brands chasing around 1.1 million sales annually, this seems counter-intuitive. Yet here we are...

Here are some examples.

Micro Cars

The market’s cheapest and smallest competitors have long failed to inspire customers, who’ve generally forked out a little more for something bigger, or just bought a used car.

However the Kia Picanto, on the back of its standard touchscreen, autonomous emergency braking and seven-year warranty, has succeeded where the Holden Spark, Nissan Micra and Suzuki Celerio haven’t.

In 2018 its sales tally was 5394 units, giving it a remarkable 69 per cent market share. Its closest competitors were the Mitsubishi Mirage (13.2 per cent) and the Fiat 500 (9.8 per cent). In January 2019 this share jumped to 80.6 per cent. That’s the definition of dominance.

Medium Cars < $60k

It’s not made in Australia anymore, but the Toyota Camry continues to dominate the flagging mid-sized passenger car market, despite only coming in a sedan body style – unlike many competitors.

Yes, many buyers are fleet customers, but far from all of them. The figures in 2018 show Toyota sold 15,269 units for a market share of 53.1 per cent. The only other rival to hit double-digit market share was the Mazda 6 on 11.6 per cent, ahead of the Ford Mondeo on 6.7 per cent. In January 2019 this figure was even higher, at 60.9 per cent.

Put another way, if you add up the sales of the Camry’s 10 closest competitors in its class, the Toyota easily outguns all of them combined.

Large Cars < $70k

Here’s where we meet one of the flaws in VFACTS sales data. The ZB Holden Commodore is a mere 12mm longer than a Camry, and yet it’s classified differently — a legacy of its days as a larger locally-made car.

Anyway, with that all noted, the Commodore’s 2018 sales of 9040 units (6655 being the imported model, the rest being leftover VFII stock) gave it 75.4 per cent market share. In January this year that tally sat at 68.4 per cent.

Its closest rivals were the Kia Stinger (1957 sales, 16.3 per cent share) and the Skoda Superb (837, 7.0 per cent share).

People Movers < $60k

Kia is clearly the master of dominating niche vehicle segments.

The Carnival racked up 6610 sales in 2018, giving it 53.6 per cent market share over rivals the Honda Odyssey (1895, 15.4 per cent), Volkswagen Multivan (1095, 8.9 per cent) and LDV G10 (810, 6.6 per cent).

The Carnival’s 532 sales in January 2019 gave it an even better 58.8 per cent market share.

Sports < $80k

Sports cars usually peak in sales early in their life cycles when demand is high, and slowly track downwards. The Toyota 86 is the prototypical example.

But the Ford Mustang has dominated this segment since the day it launched, and in 2018 its 6412 sales gave it 53.8 per cent share, more than its nearest 10 rivals combined (cars including the BMW 2 Series with 11.4 per cent share, Toyota 86 with 8.0 per cent and Mazda MX-5 with 6.0 per cent).

The Pony Car’s market share dipped to a ‘mere’ 49.5 per cent last month.

Sports > $200k

At the other, more exclusive, end of the sports car market there’s the evergreen Porsche 911, which has long defined what a ‘liveable supercar’ ought to be.

Even in its final year in current generation form, the 911’s market share was 30.3 per cent, making up 511 sales out of the segment’s 1685 unit total. The Mercedes-AMG GT managed 172 sales, and Ferrari’s whole range 241.

With the new-generation ‘992’ 911 model on sale around April/May, expect that figure to skyrocket in 2019.

Upper Large SUV < $100k

The SUV market as a rule is tightly fought. You can throw a blanket over the top contenders in most segments, with the sole exception of the Upper Large market.

Here it’s Toyota country. The LandCruiser (not Prado) had 91.6 per cent share in 2018, with its 13,677 sales (mostly being the 200 Series) dwarfing the Y62 Nissan Patrol’s admittedly supply-constrained total of 1259. In January 2019 the Toyota share was 92.1 per cent.

Broaden the scope and the picture hardly changes. When you consider what a LandCruiser Sahara costs, it’s fair to throw in other Upper Large SUVs from a higher price bracket like the Mercedes-Benz GLS (956 in 2018) and Range Rover (283).

Indeed, the LandCruiser-based Lexus LX has a market share in this upper tier of 20 per cent, furthering the group’s dominance.

Vans/CC < 2.5t

Australians only purchased 3129 light vans in 2018, compared to more than 20,000 from the next segment up (led by the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad).

But from this grouping, the Volkswagen Caddy took 1974 of them, giving it 63.1 per cent share, ahead of the Renault Kangoo on 816 units.

In January 2019 the Caddy's share figure was 62.4 per cent.

4x2 Utes

Sales of 4x2 utes in 2018 were 37,668 units, dwarfed by 4x4s (173,617). But the real story is the continued dominance of Toyota despite strong competition from Isuzu, Mazda and Ford in particular.

The HiLux 4x2’s market share in 2018 was 34.8 per cent, equating to 13,125 sales — more than the Isuzu D-Max and Ford Ranger (the segment’s number two and three) combined.

Its 958 sales in January 2019 gave the HiLux 39.3 per cent market share.