Sales fall 18 per cent amidst COVID-19 crisis, but Toyota makes gains. Kia beats Hyundai, Chinese brands boom, Holden's runout results not quite as stellar as expected
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New vehicle sales took a hit in March, as you might expect, although it wasn't the cataclysmic drop some might have projected.

VFACTS data compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries released today shows that car sales fell by 17.9 per cent compared to March last year, to 81,690 sales.

You have to return to 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis, to find a lower figure for March. That year there were 75,650 new cars sold.

March is historically the second-biggest month of the year for new car sales – because it is the lead-up to the end of the Japanese financial year.

Speaking with car brands, it seems clear that there was a notable decline in buyer interest as the month progressed, and as social distancing and other rules came into place.

While most car dealerships remain open to sell and service vehicles, some are running at a reduced capacity, and many are concerned about an April where they lack the sort of forward orders they might have executed during March.

The March monthly result represents the 24th consecutive month of negative growth for the automotive industry in Australia. That means constant month-on-month declines since early 2018.

Sales for quarter one of the 2020 calendar year sit at 233,361 units, down 13.1 per cent. This means that the market is tracking to fall shy of a million sales annually.


Toyota, which it is worth adding can sell and finance cars through its website, actually grew its sales by 1.6 per cent thanks to a massive order intake executed during the first half of March.

Its HiLux, RAV4, and Corolla, occupied three of the top four spots overall in a month of dominance, where its market share leapt to 21.5 per cent.

Mazda remains second, but its sales fell 29.1 per cent to 6919 units and every model in its range bar one (the CX-8) dipped by double digits.

Mitsubishi finished third on 6002 sales, down an even heavier 40.8 per cent, compared to a monster March 2019 figure.

Remarkably, and for the first time, Korean company Kia eclipsed its Hyundai big brother and grew its sales an impressive 6.6 per cent to 5654 units, thanks in large part to the new Seltos's contribution.

Hyundai dropped 31.4 per cent to 5306 sales as the Tucson and i30 struggled, and the loss of the discontinued Accent as a range opener (negative 1140 sales) bit hard.

Holden's expected bumper month, as its dealers clear final stock, didn't entirely materialise on the score sheet. But its 4992 sales were nevertheless up 30.2 per cent, and the discounted Colorado had a huge month and finished fifth in-market overall. Tax write-offs?

Ford sales fell 21.2 per cent to 4857 units as it lost Ranger 4x4 sales to that pesky Colorado, Nissan fell 31.6 per cent to 3501 as the X-Trail and Qashqai struggled, and Honda fell 27.5 per cent to 3144 as its core Civic, CR-V and HR-V all fell by more than 20 per cent.

Subaru tread water and grew 0.2 per cent to 3024 to finish tenth, edging Volkswagen which fell 38.7 per cent on the back of poor months from the Golf, Tiguan and Amarok.

At the premium end of the market, Mercedes-Benz Cars (2638, down 11.9 per cent) dispatched BMW (1607, down 24.1 per cent) and Audi (999, down 30.3 per cent). Next were Lexus (670, down 17.8 per cent), Land Rover (604, down 55.9 per cent), and both Porsche and Volvo on 378 cars and down by 29.7 per cent and 49.5 per cent respectively.

Smaller-volume brands that bucked the trend included 16th-placed MG, which grew 75.5 per cent to 1234 sales, Ram Trucks which grew sales of its Australian-engineered right-hand-drive pickups by 30.3 per cent to 262, MG's fellow Chinese marque Haval, which grew 131.5 per cent to 213, runout brand Infiniti (up 68.8 per cent to 157), and Peugeot (up 47.3 per cent to 162).

March 2020 sales by brand:

BrandMarch 2020 salesChange over March 2019
Mercedes-Benz Cars2638-11.9%
Isuzu Ute2106-15.1%
Land Rover604-55.9%
Mercedes-Benz Vans589-13.5%
Volvo Car378-49.5%
Great Wall16167.7%
Fiat Professional70-20.5%
Alfa Romeo53-35.4%
Aston Martin9-18.2%
Lotus 2-60.0%


Sales of SUVs fell 14.2 per cent to 39,171 (equal to 48 per cent market share, meaning almost half of all new vehicle sales were SUVs), while passenger cars fell 24.9 per cent to 21,777 and light commercial vehicles declined 15.5 per cent to 18,162.

The top-selling vehicle in March was the Toyota HiLux with 3556 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger (3108 sales), Toyota RAV4 (a remarkably high 2991 sales and the number-one SUV), Toyota Corolla (2812 sales to be the top passenger car) and the runout Holden Colorado (2391 sales).

The next five were the Hyundai i30 (1856), just edging the related Kia Cerato (1841), and Mitsubishi Triton (1813), Mazda CX-5 (1734), and Mitsubishi ASX (1643).

Passenger vehicle segments top 3:

  • Micro: Kia Picanto (365), Fiat 500 (40), Mitsubishi Mirage (34)
  • Light < $25k: Toyota Yaris (721), Kia Rio (642), MG 3 (631)
  • Light > $25k: Mini (68), Audi A1 (30), Citroen C3 (8)
  • Small < $40k: Toyota Corolla (2812), Hyundai i30 (1856 + 171 Elantras), Kia Cerato (1841)
  • Small > $40k: MB A-Class (843), Audi A3 (169), BMW 1 Series (167)
  • Medium < $60k: Toyota Camry (1332), Mazda 6 (152), Skoda Octavia (134)
  • Medium > $60k: BMW 3 Series (218), MB C-Class (200), MB CLA-Class (190)
  • Large < $70k: Kia Stinger (175), Holden Commodore (95), Skoda Superb (13)
  • Large > $70k: MB E-Class (56), BMW 5 Series (48), Audi A6 (22)
  • Upper Large: BMW 6 Series GC (45), Chrysler 300 (18), MB S-Class (8)
  • People Movers: Kia Carnival (475), Honda Odyssey (130), LDV G10 (55)
  • Sports < $80k: Ford Mustang (309), BMW 2 Series (38), Toyota 86 (38)
  • Sports > $80k: MB C-Class (107), Lexus RC (28), BMW 4 Series (16)
  • Sports > $200k: Porsche 911 (39), McLaren range (14), Ferrari range (13)

SUV vehicle segments top 3:

  • Light SUV: Mazda CX-3 (1052), Holden Trax (815), Hyundai Venue (349)
  • Small SUV < $40k: Mitsubishi ASX (1643), Hyundai Kona (1006), Honda HR-V (946)
  • Small SUV > $40k: MB GLA-Class (339), Audi Q3 (254), BMW X1 (190)
  • Medium SUV < $60k: Toyota RAV4 (2991), Mazda CX-5 (1734), Nissan X-Trail (1323)
  • Medium SUV > $60k: MB GLC-Class/GLC Coupe (458), BMW X3/X4 (403), Lexus NX (266)
  • SUV Large < $70k: Toyota Prado (1407), Toyota Kluger (833), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (670)
  • SUV Large > $70k: MB GLE-Class/GLE Coupe (258), BMW X5/X6 (225), Range Rover Sport (177)
  • SUV Upper Large: Toyota LandCruiser wagon (1264), Nissan Patrol (295)
  • SUV Upper Large > $100k: MB GLS-Class (79), BMW X7 (78), Land Rover Discovery (78)

Light commercial vehicle segments top 3:

  • Vans < 2.5t: Volkswagen Caddy (100), Renault Kangoo (15), Peugeot Partner (15)
  • Vans 2.5t-3.5t: Toyota HiAce (505), Hyundai iLoad (280), Ford Transit Custom (142)
  • 4x2 Utes: Toyota HiLux (752), Isuzu D-Max (408), Mitsubishi Triton (231)
  • 4x4 Utes: Ford Ranger (2947), Toyota HiLux (2804), Mitsubishi Triton (1582)
ModelMarch 2020 salesChange over March 2019
Toyota HiLux3556-21.5%
Ford Ranger3108-19.7%
Toyota RAV42991111.1%
Toyota Corolla281212.5%
Holden Colorado239127.6%
Hyundai i301856 (2027 w/Elantra)-22.7%
Kia Cerato 1841-1.7%
Mitsubishi Triton 1813-47%
Mazda CX-5 1734-28.2%
Mitsubishi ASX1643-26.5%
Isuzu D-Max 1467-12%
Toyota Prado 1407-15.5%
Toyota Camry 13326.1%
Nissan X-Trail1323-28.9%
Toyota LandCruiser wagons1264-13.1%
Mitsubishi Outlander 1264-38.8%
Mazda 3 1238-53.1%
Subaru Forester 122735.3%
Kia Sportage1186-0.8%
Hyundai Tucson1128-31.4%


Sales fell by between 14.4 per cent and 33.5 per cent across all regions, except for the ACT which grew its sales 77 per cent. Might have something to do with a certain hail storm causing a lot of damage. There were 5226 fewer vehicles sold in NSW compared to March 2019, 5858 fewer in Victoria, and 4130 fewer in Queensland.

The five biggest vehicle segments by sales were 4x4 utes, medium SUVs, small cars, small SUVs and large SUVs. These five segments (out of 20) accounted for more than 75 per cent of overall sales.

Private market sales accounted for 40,323 sales (down 12.5 per cent), business fleet sales 31,277 (down 23.1 per cent), government fleets 3021 (down 8.5 per cent), and rentals 4489 (down 26.3 per cent).

Sales of petrol-electric hybrid cars grew from 1541 to 4649, up 300 per cent thanks to Toyota (the RAV4 hybrid is running at more than 50 per cent). Petrol-electric hybrids made up 7.6 per cent of all passenger and SUV sales.

Tesla does not disclose sales data. But other EVs and PHEVs managed 293 sales, down 38.5 per cent. In March 2019 it appears a large order of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs were delivered to fleet partners.

The chief sources of imports were Japan (27,100 sales, down 11.7 per cent), Thailand (21,108 sales, down 21.6 per cent), Korea (11,658, down 12.1 per cent), Germany (5007, down 41.1 per cent), USA (2990, down 9.3 per cent), and China (2127, up 48.2 per cent).


“Many dealerships have opted to remain open to maintain support for customers, particularly from a service perspective, during this difficult period," said FCAI chief executive Tony Weber.

“Of particular importance are first responder and essential services vehicles. We must keep these vehicles on the road to ensure our communities continue to function and remain safe.

“In addition, we need to ensure those who physically attend their workplace can travel safely. The motor vehicle is a safe form of transport during the pandemic, allowing occupants to preserve their personal distance from other commuters.

“Within dealerships, customer safety is of the highest priority, and automotive brands have initiated a variety of enhanced hygiene protocols and contactless consultations to maintain personal distance."

Questions? Ask in the comments and we will answer ASAP.