New-car sales had a blinder in October, down by just 1.5 per cent in a market that was on track to fall by 20 per cent. 
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Australians are buying new cars at almost the same rate as this time last year – to pre-coronavirus levels – as the industry remains hopeful the worst is behind it and there is a clear road ahead.

Official sales figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show new-car sales in October 2020 were down by just 1.5 per cent compared with the same month the previous year, with 81,220 vehicles reported as sold versus 82,456 in October 2019.

Four of the Top 10 brands posted sales increases, as the industry grows optimistic about a market recovery.

Despite the relatively strong performance it was nevertheless the 31st month in a row of year-on-year decline – the longest continuous slump since the Global Financial Crisis.

It was the weakest October result in 10 years – since 2010 – but it was the third best monthly result so far this year.

Year-to-date, new-car sales are down by 18.8 per cent compared to the first 10 months of 2019, with 726,111 vehicles reported as sold so far in 2020.

The state of Victoria – historically the second-biggest car market – once again recorded the nation’s biggest sales slowdown, with 17,594 new cars reported as sold (versus 24,535 for the same month last year), a decline of 28.3 per cent.

However Victorian dealers have reported strong interest after lockdowns eased towards the end of the month, and the early prospects of a recovery in the coming months are good.

By comparison, new-car sales in NSW were up by 6.2 per cent, while Queensland was up by 11.7 per cent, South Australia was up by 14.5 per cent and West Australia was up by 17 per cent.

The Northern Territory was up by 27.7 per cent due to an increase in mining and tourism business, while the Australian Capital Territory was up by 28.1 per cent, as insurance companies continued to replace motor vehicles written off in severe storms earlier this year.

After leading the first six months of this year, the Toyota HiLux ute returned to the top of the monthly sales charts after being beaten by the Toyota RAV4 mid-size SUV and Ford Ranger ute for the past three months in a row.

Another sign the economy is moving again: utes filled three of the Top Six sales spots.

The new Isuzu D-Max ute finished sixth outright – its highest monthly result ever and the first time it has ranked third among its ute peers – behind the Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive in fourth and Toyota Corolla small car in fifth.

The figures show buyers continue to favour utes and SUVs; anecdotal feedback from dealers claim it is because more motorists plan to holiday at home amid international travel restrictions.

Other customers are treating themselves to a fancier car than they would otherwise buy, rather than go on an overseas holiday, say dealers.

“After a very challenging year, we are seeing ‘green shoots’ in the Australian new vehicle market,” said Tony Weber, the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, in a media statement.

Mr Weber said the results were “welcome news”. “Every state and territory except Victoria and Tasmania have seen significant growth and, given the circumstances, Victoria’s result is seen as encouraging,” he said.

“However, the green shoots that we are seeing in October give us great hope that we may begin to see further recovery during the coming months.”

Mr Weber said Federal Government initiatives “such as a constructive budget that included the instant asset write off, along with more accessible finance for consumers, is also acting as a welcome stimulus for the industry”.

The type of cars we are buying continues to evolve. SUVs and four-wheel-drives once again represented more than half of new vehicle sales for the month (50.8 per cent, after an increase of 6.7 per cent) while utes and van accounted for 23.6 per cent of total sales (and as a category were up by 11.6 per cent).

Passenger car sales, however, shrunk to 21.9 per cent of the total market, down 24.5 per cent from October 2019.

Market leader Toyota posted a 14.8 per cent increase in sales in October 2020 compared to the same month the prior year, reporting 19,505 vehicles as sold after revealing its dealers had written 22,500 orders last month.

Toyota maintained a comfortable lead over second-placed Mazda which also posted a sales gain (of 17.1 per cent), however third-place Hyundai was hit hard, down by 20.2 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Ford, which was last number one in Australia in 1997, ranked fourth in October 2020 after posting a 17.4 per cent sales increase on the back of good supply of – and orders for – its Ranger ute.

Kia rounded out the Top Five after posting a 4.8 per cent increase compared to the same month last year.

Mitsubishi (down by 6.3 per cent) retained sixth place for the second month in a row after ranking fifth in August and third on the monthly sales charts in July for only the seventh time in its history.

The luxury-car sector continued to reveal mixed results in October 2020.

Mercedes-Benz made it into the Top 10 for the second month in a row – finishing in 10th in October after ranking ninth in September – despite posting a monthly decline of 11.5 per cent.

BMW, which had earlier in the year made a strong showing in the Top 10 after registering a large number of demonstrator models and company cars to boost its numbers, again fell outside the Top 10.

BMW finished October in 13th spot – despite a 3.2 per cent sales increase – ahead of MG, Audi, Suzuki and LDV.

Holden continues to deplete showroom stock, with just 165 vehicles reported as sold (versus 522 in September and 555 in August), as dealerships continue to remove signage ahead of the shutdown of the brand at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, our appetite for US pick-ups continued during the pandemic, and fuel economy was clearly not a factor: Ram outsold Mini and Peugeot.

TOP 10 CARS IN OCTOBER 2020

Toyota HiLux: 4444, up 26.4 per cent
Ford Ranger: 4217, up 33.4 per cent
Toyota RAV4: 4084, up 91.6 per cent
Toyota Prado: 2207, up 45.9 per cent
Toyota Corolla: 1943, down 8.2 per cent
Isuzu D-Max: 1932, up 51.5 per cent
Mazda CX-5: 1912, up 11.9 per cent
Hyundai Tucson: 1678, down 0.9 per cent
Toyota LandCruiser Wagon: 1640, up 23.8 per cent
Kia Cerato: 1619, down 11.4 per cent

TOP 10 CAR BRANDS IN OCTOBER 2020

Toyota: 19,505, up 14.8 per cent
Mazda: 7457, up 17.1 per cent
Hyundai: 5951, down 20.2 per cent
Ford: 5744, up 17.4 per cent
Kia: 5304, up 4.8 per cent
Mitsubishi: 4510, down 6.3 per cent
Nissan: 3539, down 11.8 per cent
Volkswagen: 3112, down 26.3 per cent
Subaru: 2902, down 12.1 per cent
Mercedes-Benz: 2288, down 11.5 per cent

The market

New-car sales in October 2020 were down by 1.5 per cent compared to the same month last year, with 81,220 vehicles reported as sold. It was the 31st month in a row of year-on-year decline.

Year-to-date, 726,111 new vehicles have been reported as sold, a decrease of 18.8 per cent compared to the first 10 months of last year.

While sales for October 2020 were down, four of the Top 10 brands posted sales increases and market share gains as supply of new vehicles began to return to normal after production interruptions earlier in the year.

The year-on-year decrease of just 1.5 per cent in October compares to a 21.8 per cent decline in September, a 28.8 per cent decline in August 2020, a 12.8 per cent decline in July 2020, a 6.4 per cent decline in June 2020, a 35.3 per cent decline in May 2020, and a 48.5 per cent decline in April 2020, in the grip of the coronavirus crisis.

Last month was the lowest October result in 10 years versus the lowest September in 18 years, the weakest August tally in 23 years, the slowest July in 18 years, the worst June in nine years, a 23-year low in May, and the lowest April result in at least 30 years.

Brands

Toyota remains market leader for October 2020 comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals, and is on track for its 18th year in a row as Australia’s top-selling car brand. The Japanese car giant’s sales totalled 19,505, up 14.8 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Toyota’s October market share increased to 24 per cent, compared to 18.2 per cent in September, 20.4 per cent in August, 21.4 per cent in July, 20.7 per cent in June, 24.2 per cent in May, and 26.5 per cent in April. Last month Toyota represented almost one in four new vehicles sold.

Mazda secured second place with 7457 sales (up 17.1 per cent) but it only had one car in the Top 10.

Hyundai finished in third place, with 5951 new cars reported as sold (down 20.2 per cent).

Top 25 brands for October 2020

Models

The Toyota HiLux was the top-selling vehicle outright in Australia in October 2020, when sales of both 4x4 and 4x2 models are combined (as is industry practice).

However, the Ford Ranger 4x4 (3808) outsold the Toyota HiLux 4x4 (3406) for the month, as Toyota introduced massive price rises with its updated model.

Both utes posted big sales gains (Toyota HiLux up 26.4 per cent and Ford Ranger up 33.4 per cent).

Toyota filled five spots in the Top 10, with the HiLux, RAV4 (4084 sold, up 91.6 per cent), Prado (2207 sold, up 45.9 per cent) Corolla (1943 sold, down 8.2 per cent), and LandCruiser wagon (1640 sold, up 23.8 per cent).

Top 25 models for October 2020

Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment

MicroKia Picanto (401)Fiat 500 (64)Mitsubishi Mirage (22)
Light < $25kMG MG3 (872)Mazda 2 (424)Kia Rio (379)
Light > $25kMini hatch (177)Audi A1 (36)Renault Zoe (2)
Small < $40kToyota Corolla (1943)Kia Cerato (1619)Hyundai i30 1431 (+69 Elantra)
Small > $40kMercedes-Benz A-Class (350)Audi A3 (338)BMW 1 Series (118)
Medium < $60kToyota Camry (1263)Skoda Octavia (230)Mazda6 (146)
Medium > $60kMercedes C-Class (312)BMW 3 Series (272)Mercedes CLA-Class (172)
Large < $70kKia Stinger (137)Holden Commodore (81)Skoda Superb (30)
Large > $70kMercedes-Benz E-Class (58)BMW 5 Series (48)Mercedes-Benz CLS (41)
Upper LargeMercedes-Benz S-Class (46)BMW 7 Series (9)BMW 8 Series (7)
People MoversKia Carnival (286)Honda Odyssey (87)Hyundai iMax (73)
Sports < $80kFord Mustang (185)Subaru BRZ (62)Hyundai Veloster (60)
Sports > $80kMercedes-Benz C-Class coupe and convertible (69)Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe and convertible (52)Toyotas Supra (20)
Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (39)Ferrari range (22)Lamborghini range (11)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1233)Hyundai Venue (418)Suzuki Jimny (372)
Small SUV < $40kKia Seltos (1214)Hyundai Kona (1130)Mitsubishi ASX (1119)
Small SUV > $40kAudi Q3 (346)Mercedes-Benz GLA (310)Volvo XC40 (273)
Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (4084)Mazda CX-5 (1912)Hyundai Tucson (1678)
Medium SUV > $60kBMW X3 (447)Volvo XC60 (309)Mercedes-Benz GLC (275)
SUV Large < $70kToyota Prado (2207)Ford Everest (601)Mazda CX-9 (597)
SUV Large > $70kBMW X5 (293)Mercedes-Benz GLE (185)Audi Q7 (136)
SUV Upper LargeToyota LandCruiser Wagon (1640)Nissan Patrol Wagon (373)
SUV Upper Large > $100kBMW X7 (65)Land Rover Discovery (51) Mercedes-Benz GLS (49)

Utes and vans: Top Three in each segment

Vans < 2.5tVolkswagen Caddy (174)Renault Kangoo (25)Peugeot Partner (19)
Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota Hiace (1049)Hyundai iLoad (659)LDV G10 (264)
4x2 UtesToyota HiLux (1038)Isuzu D-Max (602)Ford Ranger (409)
4x4 UtesFord Ranger (3803)Toyota HiLux (3406)Mitsubishi Triton (1330)

Miscellaneous

Electrified vehicles – including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric – more than doubled from 3022 deliveries in October 2019 to 6187 reported as sold in October 2020.

The growth was once again driven primarily by hybrid cars, and in particular the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Sales of pure electric cars (not including Tesla, which does not supply figures) were up by 5.1 per cent, from 177 in October 2019 to 186 in October 2020.

Sales of hybrid cars more than doubled from 2747 sales in October 2019 to 5801 reported as sold in October 2020.

Sales of plug-in hybrid cars also more than doubled, from 98 sales in October 2019 to 200 reported as sold in October 2020.

The Top 10 was a reflection of our changing taste in cars: three of the top six vehicles were utes and the balance were SUVs, four-wheel-drives and small cars.