Australians spent $26 billion on overseas travel in 2019. In 2020 they started spending some of that money on new cars to explore their own back yard.
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Australian new-car sales surged in the last two months of 2020 as the nation came out of COVID-19 lockdowns – and the automotive industry is now grappling with stock shortages as a large proportion of buyers treated themselves to a new vehicle to holiday at home amid international travel restrictions.

Official figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries shows 95,652 new motor vehicles were reported as sold for the month of December 2020, an increase of 13.5 per cent compared to the same month the prior year.

December 2020 delivered the second month in a row of growth (November 2020 was up by 12.4 per cent) after 31 months of decline, the longest market slump since the Global Financial Crisis of a decade ago.

The data shows 916,968 new cars were reported as sold for the 2020 calendar year – down by 13.7 per cent compared to the prior year, but a recovery from the 48.5 per cent decline in April 2020, which was the sharpest slowdown since records were kept.

The new-car sales result for 2020 was the lowest annual tally in 17 years – since 2003 – and the first time the Australian new-car market has dropped below 1 million since 2009.

Demand for utes, SUVs and four-wheel-drives surged as business buyers took advantage of the Federal Government’s instant asset write-off scheme and state governments fast-tracked infrastructure projects; sales to business fleets were down by just 4.7 per cent in December.

Private buyers were the driving force last month, however, with sales to individuals up by 40 per cent compared to December 2019.

Industry experts say the December 2020 figure could have been higher had many showrooms not run out of popular models such as utes, SUVs and four-wheel-drives.

Toyota Australia president and CEO Matthew Callachor said: “One of the factors that appears to be contributing to the recent upswing in new-car sales is that our international borders are closed.”

Toyota cited Austrade figures that showed Australians spent $26 billion more travelling overseas in 2019 than foreign visitors spent in Australia over the same period.

“Forced to scrap international holidays, many Australians who would normally be travelling (overseas) are instead ready to explore their own backyard,” said Mr Callachor. “And many of them are buying new vehicles to ensure their family road trips are as comfortable and as safe as possible.”

The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Tony Weber said “unprecedented economic support” by state and federal governments and the “easing of prohibitive lending restrictions” in the last three months of the year, allowed for a “cautiously optimistic outlook for 2021” and that “we are at the beginning of a positive trend”.

The FCAI forecasts that new-car sales in 2021 will bounce back and once again eclipse the 1 million mark.

Mr Weber said there were stock shortages across numerous automotive brands.

“Clearly there are some issues about stock shortages, but (various brands) are working their way through the system,” said Mr Weber.

He said “all the idicators are pretty strong” for a return to 1 million-plus new-car sales in 2021.

“If you look at the last two months of (2020) we believe the economy will turn around,” said Mr Weber. “We are optimistic the market will bounce back, as the economy will, and most probably we will see over 1 million sales again, as it should be.”

Mr Weber said while some of the sales surge in the last two months of 2020 can be attributed to pent-up demand and orders being filled after contracts were signed earlier in the year, he believes the market will continue to grow in 2021.

Sales figures for 2020 released today show the Toyota HiLux ute was Australia’s top-selling vehicle for the fifth year in a row, ahead of the Ford Ranger which ranked in second place for the fourth year in a row. The Mitsubishi Triton finished third in the utes sales race ahead of the Isuzu D-Max.

The Toyota RAV4 was Australia’s top-selling SUV for the first time (and biggest selling hybrid), while the Toyota Corolla was the nation’s favourite passenger car for the eighth year in a row, ahead of the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato.

Sales of the Nissan Patrol and Toyota LandCruiser also surged as the rest of the market slumped.

Demonstrating that consumers gravitate to brands they trust in times of crisis, Toyota vehicles accounted for 22.3 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia last year. It was Toyota’s second-highest market share result since its previous record set in 2008 (23.6 per cent).

Not only did Toyota as a brand lead every state and territory in 2020, the Toyota HiLux was the nation’s top-seller for five years – and has led new vehicle sales in the Northern Territory for 20 years, Queensland for 14 years, and West Australia for 13 years.


TOP 10 CARS IN DECEMBER 2020

RankModelVolume December 2020Change year-on-year
1Toyota HiLux5572up 42.2 per cent
2Ford Ranger4265up 27.4 per cent
3Toyota RAV43542up 60.1 per cent
4Toyota Corolla2516down 9.4 per cent
5Toyota Prado2500up 79.9 per cent
6Isuzu D-Max2409up 28.1 per cent
7Toyota LandCruiser Wagon2235up 128.1 per cent
8Mazda CX-52060up 12.7 per cent
9Hyundai i301996up 3.2 per cent
10Nissan X-Trail1822up 18.9 per cent

TOP 10 CAR BRANDS IN DECEMBER 2020

RankBrandVolume November 2020Change year-on-year
1Toyota 23,470up 35.6 per cent
2Mazda8556up 42.0 per cent
3Hyundai6734up 26.1 per cent
4Mitsubishi6380down 9.8 per cent
5Ford6306up 30.2 per cent
6Kia4700down 4.9 per cent
7Nissan4216up 6.8 per cent
8Subaru3402up 18.9 per cent
9Volkswagen3291down 19.3 per cent
10Isuzu Ute Australia3270up 21.9 per cent


Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment in December 2020

MicroKia Picanto (323)Fiat 500 (46)Mitsubishi Mirage (22)
Light < $25kMG3 (707)Suzuki Swift (515)Toyota Yaris (506)
Light > $25kMini (160)Audi A1 (34)Citroen C3 (4)
Small < $40kToyota Corolla (2516)Hyundai i30 (1996)Mazda3 (1319)
Small > $40kMercedes A-Class (530)Audi A3 (201)BMW 1 Series (142)
Medium < $60kToyota Camry (1280)Skoda Octavia (214)Mazda6 (148)
Medium > $60kMercedes C-Class (509)BMW 3 Series (302)Mercedes CLA-Class (175)
Large < $70kKia Stinger (117)Skoda Superb (33)Holden Commodore (1)
Large > $70kBMW 5 Series (83)Mercedes E-Class (76)Audi A6 (29)
Upper Large > $100kBMW 7 Series (8)BMW 8 Series (8)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (7)
People MoversKia Carnival (119)Honda Odyssey (102)LDV G10 (93)
Sports < $80kFord Mustang (334)Subaru BRZ (53)Hyundai Veloster (53)
Sports > $80kMercedes C-Class coupe and convertible (153)BMW 4 Series coupe and convertible (86)Mercedes E-Class coupe and convertible (36)
Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (30)Ferrari coupe and convertible (16)Bentley coupe and convertible (9)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1333)Toyota Yaris Cross (517)VW T-Cross (440)
Small SUV < $40kHyundai Kona (1785)Mitsubishi ASX (1756)Mazda CX-30 (1033)
Small SUV > $40kAudi Q3 (660)Mercedes GLA (489)Volvo XC40 (469)
Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (3542)Mazda CX-5 (2060)Nissan X-Trail (1822)
Medium SUV > $60kLexus NX (475)BMW X3 (382)Mercedes GLC (295)
SUV Large < $70kToyota Prado (2500)Isuzu MU-X (861)Kia Sorento (739)
SUV Large > $70kBMW X5 (367)Lexus RX (241)Audi Q7 (234)
SUV Upper LargeToyota LandCruiser (2235)Nissan Patrol (336)
SUV Upper Large > $100kBMW X7 (80)Land Rover Discovery (71)Mercedes G-Class (64)

Utes and vans: Top Three in each segment

Vans < 2.5tVW Caddy (216)Renault Kangoo (35)Peugeot Partner (12)
Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota Hiace (1382)Hyundai iLoad (433)Renault Trafic (272)
4x2 UtesToyota HiLux (1119)Isuzu D-Max (634)Ford Ranger (390)
4x4 UtesToyota HiLux (4453)Ford Ranger (3875)Isuzu D-Max (1775)

The market

New-car sales in December 2020 were up by 13.5 per cent compared to the same month last year, with 95,652 vehicles reported as sold. It was the second monthly year-on-year growth after 31 continuous months of decline.

For the 2020 calendar year, 916,968 new vehicles were reported as sold, a decrease of 13.7 per cent compared to full-year 2019.

Seven of the Top 10 brands posted sales increases and market share gains in December, as supply of new vehicles began to return to normal after production interruptions earlier in the year – and dealers filled orders placed in previous months.

December’s year-on-year increase of 13.5 per cent followed a 12.4 per cent increase in November, a decline of 1.5 per cent in October, 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 best December result in three years (since 102,820 were reported as sold in December 2017). By comparison, November 2020 was the best since 2017, October 2020 was the lowest result in 10 years, September was the lowest in 18 years, August tally was the weakest in 23 years, July was an 18-year low, June was the worst in nine years, there was a 23-year low in May, and the April result was the lowest in at least 30 years.

Brands

Toyota remained market leader for December 2020 comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals, and cruised to its 18th year in a row as Australia’s top-selling car brand. The Japanese car giant’s sales totalled 23,470, up 35.6 per cent compared to December 2019.

Toyota’s December market share was 24.5 per cent, compared to 24.4 per cent in November, 24.0 per cent in October, 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 6734 sales (up 42.0 per cent) but it only had one car in the Top 10.

Hyundai finished in third place, with 6903 new cars reported as sold (up 26.1 per cent).

Models

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

The Toyota HiLux 4x4 (4453) comfortably outsold the Ford Ranger 4x4 (3875) in December 2020, for the second month in a row.

The Ford Ranger 4x4 had outsold the Toyota HiLux 4x4 in seven of the 12 months in 2020.

The Ford Ranger 4x4 also outsold the Toyota HiLux 4x4 for the second year in a row.

Miscellaneous

Sales of electrified vehicles – including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric – increased by 69.3 per cent, from 3861 in December 2019 to 6540 in December 2020.

However, 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 97.8 per cent, from 91 in December 2019 to 180 in December 2020.

Sales of hybrid cars were up by 68.1 per cent, from 3642 sales in December 2019 to 6124 reported as sold in December 2020.

Sales of plug-in hybrid cars increased by 84.4 per cent, from 128 sales in December 2019 to 236 reported as sold in December 2020.

2020 IN CHARTS

Top 25 brands


Top 25 models