New vehicle sales in Australia are down by 8.0 per cent (to 893,920 units) this year, summing to the lowest January-October tally since 2011. Not since the GFC has there been a more protracted diminution of sales here.
But not all brands are battling. Be it through an array of new product (usually in the form of a compact SUV or two), sharp pricing, the right marketing, or simply coming off a low base, these are some of the minority group of car-makers bucking the trend.
MG - 6740 sales YTD 2019 (2323 over the same period in 2018)
The reborn Chinese marque has seen its sales skyrocket from 2323 over the January-October period in 2018, to 6740 over the same timeframe this year. That’s growth of 190.1 per cent, and higher volume than Skoda, Jeep and Peugeot.
The growth has been powered by the ZS crossover (3051 sales) and MG 3 light car (3265). With an electric version of the ZS and the new-generation GS/HS mid-size SUV in the pipeline, things look bright.
Ram - 2275 (431)
Sydney company Ateco contracts Melbourne’s Walkinshaw to re-engineer these US pickups to right-hand drive, and the newly made, round-the-clock factory line can’t keep up with demand from people for whom a Ranger or HiLux just doesn’t stack up.
The addition of the 1500 range with V8 petrol and (now) diesel power, and a sharpish entry price of $79,990, has added a tranche of sales. The brand has moved a remarkable 2275 trucks this year, up five-fold. Said Ram 1500 has even outsold the hyped Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
Kia - 51,522 (49,957)
One of the very few mass-market brands making gains. Kia finished fourth overall in October and sits sixth on the charts this year, between Ford and Nissan, selling 51,422 cars this year, up 2.9 per cent (equal to 1465 extra sales).
The Cerato small car has been the star, stealing market share from more expensive competitors such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3. With the Seltos small SUV just launching in a high-volume market segment, expect 2020 to be another strong year.
Volvo Car - 6480 (5616)
Despite waving goodbye to the V40 entry model, the Swedish-Chinese brand has made real strides this year, growing sales by 15.4 per cent.
Sales of the Volvo XC60 (up 17.8 per cent) and XC90 (up 3.0 per cent) have been good, but a full year of XC40 small SUV sales (2466 sales this year, up from 1200) has really pushed the brand to a higher echelon locally.
Haval - 1358 (501)
The low-key Chinese purveyor of SUVs has made some inroads this year thanks to better pricing, more marketing, and a good warranty.
Its H2 entry car has grown 250 per cent to 728 sales, the H6 by 160 per cent to 367, and the under-appreciated H9 full-size 4x4 by 87 per cent to 262. Making progress… slowly.
Skoda - 5814 (5031)
With the Octavia (1530) and Superb (781) passenger cars holding steady, plus the Karoq (up nearly 150 per cent, to 955 sales) and larger Kodiaq (up 42 per cent to 1684) adding volume, the Czech marque is becoming more mainstream by the month.
With vehicles such as the Scala hatch and Kamiq small SUV coming in 2020, a target of 10,000 sales seems eminently achievable.
SsangYong - 663 (3)
Give it time to gain recognition, and factor in the addition of the slick new Korando mid-size SUV, and it would surprise nobody to see more triple-digit growth into 2020.
Lexus - 7997 (7427)
Japan’s luxury player has outsold Land Rover, Renault and Volvo this year, growing by nearly 8 per cent. This is entirely down to the addition of the UX small SUV, which has been its second most popular car after the NX and lured younger buyers.
With big plans to widen its customer care program in 2020, and better supply of hybrid cars to augment its already solid mix, it’s well placed to hold form for a while yet.