Industry Sales Results

Car sales hit the brakes in February 2019

The time is right to drive a bargain after new-car sales posted their eleventh month in a row in decline, the biggest slowdown since the GFC.
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DEALERS are likely to be desperate to do a sharp price on a new car in March – traditionally the second-biggest month of the year for sales – after figures for February revealed the biggest market slowdown since the Global Financial Crisis.

It is now 11 months in a row sales have fallen short of the same month the previous year — and even market leader Toyota has been hit hard.

Eight of the Top 10 brands posted sales declines last month, according to preliminary industry data ahead of official figures next week.

Toyota, Australia’s favourite car brand for the past 16 years in a row, fell by a massive 10 per cent in February, its biggest drop since December 2017.

Until now, Toyota has weathered the storm and maintained strong sales while others took a hit.

Second-placed Mazda also hit the brakes — down by almost seven per cent — while Mitsubishi and Hyundai traded places, knocking Hyundai out of the top three for the third month in a row.

Buoyed by the arrival of the new Triton ute, Mitsubishi sales increased by almost 20 per cent while Hyundai fell by 19 per cent.

Ford held onto fifth place but also lost ground (down six per cent) while Kia continued to climb the charts (up four per cent).

Holden had another tough month, only just scraping into tenth place after sales fell 18 per cent - ranking behind Kia (sixth), Volkswagen (seventh), Nissan (eighth) and Honda (ninth).

Our love affair with utes continued, with the Toyota HiLux (4400) comfortably outselling the Ford Ranger (3350) for the top spot ahead of the Mitsubishi Triton (3150), landing pick-ups in the top three places outright.

Indeed, Toyota sold more HiLux utes in February (4400) than the total number of vehicles Holden sold across its entire range (3800), and Mitsubishi Triton 4x4 variants came within a whisker of overtaking Ford Ranger 4x4 in February, according to the preliminary data.

Assisted by discount deals on the runout model, the Mazda 3 scored a rare win in the passenger car class, outselling the Toyota Corolla (2650 versus 2070), ahead of the Mazda CX-5 SUV (2350). The Hyundai i30 hatch was next in the passenger car race (1900 sales) although it too was down compared to its former glory.

Demand for the Ford Mustang remains relatively strong, with about 500 delivered in February compared to about 570 sales for the Holden Commodore.

“It was a bloodbath,” said a leading multi-franchise dealer in one of Australia’s biggest capital cities, who asked to remain anonymous. “Enquiry was down across all our brands and our forward order write is also extremely weak.”

The dealer said much of the buyer uncertainty was driven by the upcoming Federal election and tighter credit requirements.

“Plus we’ve had record sales for most of the past five years and I think people are just catching their breath,” the veteran dealer said. “A lot of people have already switched to lower interest rates and are waiting for their current leases to expire.”

Top 10 brands in February 2019 (rounded, preliminary data)

  • Toyota 16,350 (down 10 per cent)
  • Mazda 9230 (down 7 per cent)
  • Mitsubishi 8500 (up 20 per cent)
  • Hyundai 6430 (down 19 per cent)
  • Ford 5680 (down 6 per cent)
  • Kia 4850 (up 4 per cent)
  • Volkswagen 4050 (down 13 per cent)
  • Nissan 3900 (down 19 per cent)
  • Honda 3850 (down 18 per cent)
  • Holden 3800 (down 18 per cent)

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling