Eight of the Top 10 brands posted sales declines last month but Mitsubishi had its best March of all time and knocked off Mazda for second place for the first time ever.
Our appetite for new-cars continues to wane as years of record sales have given us indigestion — and a range of factors have become roadblocks to treating ourselves to a new vehicle.
Economic uncertainty in the lead-up to the Federal election, tighter car loan requirements, and new industry reporting practices that mean only registered cars can be declared as sold, have all contributed to the biggest market slowdown since the Global Financial Crisis a decade ago.
Confidential preliminary figures show eight of the Top 10 brands posted sales declines.
Market leader Toyota was down by 8.0 per cent, reflecting the rate of slowdown across the entire car market.
Mitsubishi was buoyed by the new Triton selling alongside the runout model, as well as strong demand for the ASX and Outlander SUVs.
Both Holden (down 25 per cent) and Subaru (down by 42 per cent) had especially tough months, with Subaru pushed out of the Top 10 for the first time in memory due to an interruption to production at its Japanese factories earlier this year.
Holden’s result is fewer than 10 sales away from its all-time monthly low posted in February and its lowest March tally since 1948. As with February, the Toyota HiLux outsold the entire Holden brand in March – and the Ford Ranger came with 112 sales of outselling Holden outright as well.
Part of Holden’s decline can be attributed to the axing of the Spark and Barina small cars; sales of Colorado (up 16 per cent), Equinox (up 22 per cent) and Trailblazer (up 10 per cent) were bright spots amid the grim overall number.
Ford Ranger 4x4 models came within whisker of overtaking Toyota HiLux 4x4, but the HiLux kept its crown due to strong sales of 4x2 models.
A veteran car dealer told CarAdvice almost every brand found it tough going in March, and April isn’t likely to be much better with school breaks and public holidays: “Enquiry is down, foot traffic is down, it’s a shocker, everyone is feeling it”.
He also said there were “no signs of recovery yet, not at least until after the election”.
History shows the car industry experiences a slow down in demand in the lead-up to Federal elections.
But a combination of other factors such as tighter lending criteria and stricter sales reporting practices mean it could be several months before the industry starts to recover.
“I don’t think we will see a bounce in the market until late this year or some time next year, at the earliest,” the multi-franchise dealer said.
“A lot of car companies have put the brakes on ordering stock, so supply will eventually match demand. The problem then will be having enough cars to sell if and when the market eventually recovers.”
The official VFACTS report is due out at midday tomorrow.
New car sales in March 2019
- Toyota 17,300 – down 8.3 per cent
- Mitsubishi 10,190 – up 15.6 per cent
- Mazda 9620 – down 1.0 per cent
- Hyundai 7730 – down 8.4 per cent
- Ford 6160 – down 7.8 per cent
- Kia 5300 – up 4.3 per cent
- Nissan 5115 – down 17 per cent
- Volkswagen 4680 – down 8.8 per cent
- Honda 4330 – down 22.4 per cent
- Holden 3830 – down 25 per cent
- Subaru 3020 – down 42 per cent
Preliminary figures, rounded, Top 11 brands.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
MORE: Industry Sales Results