New-car sales continued to show signs of recovery in January 2021 as travel restrictions eased and back orders were delivered.
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New-car sales posted their third month in a row in positive territory as COVID-19 travel restrictions eased and dealers continued to fill backorders in January 2021.

Former favourite Holden also appears to have taken its last breath, with zero cars reported as sold in January 2021.

Despite the positive signs across the industry in January, the new-car market has not yet returned to its former glory as dealers continue to report severe stock shortages due to a rise in demand and restrictions in production.

Official new-car sales figures for January 2021 released today show 79,666 vehicles were reported as sold, an increase of 11.1 per cent compared to the same month last year – and the best January since 2012 prior to the pandemic.

While the early signs are good, last month’s new-car sales tally was 5 per cent down compared to the five-year average of January sales results from 2015 to 2019, before the global pandemic hit.

“It is positive to see the third month in a row of growth in new car sales, but we have to bear in mind that much of this reflects pent-up demand and orders placed in the preceding months,” said the chief executive officer of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA). “The industry is growing off a very low base after a period of falling sales which lasted for 31 months.”

Prior to November 2020, the car industry had reported 31 months in a row of sales decline – the longest slump since the Global Financial Crisis of a decade ago.

However, there was still plenty of positive news across the industry last month: nine of the Top 10 brands posted sales gains and every state and territory reported year-on-year gains.

Utes continued to dominate the market, with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger maintaining their one-two lead, with the HiLux winning both the 4x2 and 4x4 categories.

Furthermore, utes represented four of the Top 10 vehicles sold in January 2021, with the Mitsubishi Triton ranking seventh (down 8.0 per cent due to severe stock shortages) and the Isuzu D-Max finishing eighth (up 167 per cent following the arrival of a new model).

The top-selling passenger car was the Toyota RAV4 SUV (up 33.9 per cent) as the car maker continues to full back orders – the majority of which are for the hybrid variant – and ahead of the Mazda CX-5 which finished in fourth place.

The Toyota Corolla remained Australia’s top-selling small car, finishing in fifth position.

Car dealers remain optimistic about a market recovery, however anyone looking for a bargain may be disappointed.

With restrictions on production output – due in part to a global shortage of semiconductors – car dealers are quoting delivery times ranging from one month to 12 months, depending on the model.

Industry insiders predict we won’t see sharp discounts driven by oversupply until the second half of this year at the earliest. Most dealers are forecasting strong demand in March (the end of the Japanese financial year and historically the secoind-biggest month) and June (the end of the Australian financial year).

In March, Japanese car companies are chasing internal sales and financial targets; in June small businesses are often encouraged to reduce their taxable income by making a large purchase, such as a motor vehicle.


TOP 10 CARS IN JANUARY 2021

RankModelVolume January 2021Change year-on-year
1Toyota HiLux3916up 31.9 per cent
2Ford Ranger3120up 18.9 per cent
3Toyota RAV43066up 33.9 per cent
4Mazda CX-52081up 11.9 per cent
5Toyota Corolla2062down 13.0 per cent
6Hyundai i301952down 4.2 per cent
7Mitsubishi Triton1908down 8.0 per cent
8Isuzu D-Max1822up 167.9 per cent
9Nissan X-Trail1593up 8.6 per cent
10Kia Cerato1545up 3.0 per cent

TOP 10 CAR BRANDS IN JANUARY 2021

RankBrandVolume January 2021Change year-on-year
1Toyota16,819up 13.6 per cent
2Mazda8508up 27.1 per cent
3Hyundai5951up 9.3 per cent
4Kia5500up 16.9 per cent
5Mitsubishi5179up 1.4 per cent
6Ford5099up 22.3 per cent
7Nissan3756up 9.1 per cent
8Subaru3223up 43.2 per cent
9Volkswagen2722down 16.1 per cent
10Mercedes-Benz2443up 31.5 per cent


Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment in January 2021

MicroKia Picanto (573)Mitsubishi Mirage (56)Fiat 500 (49)
Light < $25kMG3 (859)Suzuki Swift (562)VW Polo (526)
Light > $25kMini (147)Audi A1 (68)Citroen C3 (8)
Small < $40kToyota Corolla (2062)Hyundai i30 (1952)Kia Cerato (1545)
Small > $40kMercedes A-Class (323)BMW 1 Series (223)Audi A3 (124)
Medium < $60kToyota Camry (815)Subaru Liberty (183)Skoda Octavia (153)
Medium > $60kMercedes C-Class (398)BMW 3 Series (139)Lexus IS (96)
Large < $70kKia Stinger (147)Skoda Superb (48)Holden Commodore (0)
Large > $70kMercedes E-Class (58)BMW 5 Series (32)Audi A6 (23)
Upper Large > $100kLexus LS (7)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (6)Porsche Panamera, Audi A8 & BMW 7 Series (5)
People MoversKia Carnival (442)Honda Odyssey (67)Hyundai iMAX (67)
Sports < $80kFord Mustang (361)Mazda MX-5 (53)Hyundai Veloster (45)
Sports > $80kMercedes C-Class coupe and convertible (73)BMW 4 Series coupe and convertible (55)Mercedes E-Class coupe and convertible (23)
Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (33)Ferrari coupe and convertible (16)Aston Martin coupe and convertible (9)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment in January 2021

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1344)Toyota Yaris Cross (541)VW T-Cross (494)
Small SUV < $40kMitsubishi ASX (1278)MG ZS (1253)Hyundai Kona (1091)
Small SUV > $40kAudi Q3 (385)Volvo XC40 (367)Mercedes GLA (365))
Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (3066)Mazda CX-5 (2081)Nissan X-Trail (1593)
Medium SUV > $60kBMW X3 (358)Audi Q5 (305)Volvo XC60 (290)
SUV Large < $70kToyota Prado (1359)Kia Sorento (745)Hyundai Santa Fe & Mazda CX-8 (571)
SUV Large > $70kBMW X5 (302)Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Wagon (262)Audi Q7 (177)
SUV Upper LargeToyota LandCruiser (1499)Nissan Patrol (241)
SUV Upper Large > $100k Mercedes G-Class (96)Mercedes– Benz GLS-Class (44) BMW X7 (41)

Utes and vans: Top Three in each segment in January 2021

Vans < 2.5tVW Caddy (125)Renault Kangoo (45)Peugeot Partner (8)
Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota Hiace (705)Ford Transit Custom (303)Hyundai iLoad (294)
4x2 UtesToyota HiLux (823)Isuzu D-Max (406)Ford Ranger (318)
4x4 UtesToyota HiLux (3090)Ford Ranger (2802)Mitsubishi Triton (1723)

The market

New-car sales in January 2021 were up 11.1 per cent compared to the same month last year, with 79,666 vehicles reported as sold. It was the third monthly year-on-year growth after 31 continuous months of decline.

Nine 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 last year – and dealers filled orders placed in previous months.

However, car dealers are still reporting delays on popular models following a shortage of semiconductors in the wake of the pandemic.

January 2021's year-on-year increase follows a 13.5 per cent increase in December, 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 January result in three years – in January, 2018 88,551 new cars were reported as sold.

By comparison, December, 2020 saw 95,652 cars reported as sold.

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 January, 2021 comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, and Mitsubishi.

The Japanese car giant’s sales totalled 16,819, up 13.6 per cent compared to January 2020.

Toyota’s January market share was 21.1 per cent, compared to 24.5 per cent in December, 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 just over one in five new vehicles sold.

Mazda secured second place with 8508 sales (up 27.1 per cent), however it only had one car in the Top 10 (this being the CX-5 SUV).

Hyundai finished in third place, with 5951 new cars reported as sold (up 9.3 per cent).

Models

The Toyota HiLux (3916) was the top-selling vehicle outright in Australia in January 2021, when sales of both 4x4 and 4x2 model variants are combined (as is industry practice).

The Toyota HiLux 4x4 (3090) comfortably outsold the Ford Ranger 4x4 (2802) in January 2021, for the third month in a row.

For context, in 2020 the Ford Ranger 4x4 outsold the Toyota HiLux 4x4 in seven of the 12 months.

Miscellaneous

Sales of electrified vehicles – including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric – increased by 54.9 per cent, from 3681 in January 2020 to 5701 in January 2021.

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) increased 146.6 per cent, from 120 in January 2020 to 296 in January 2021.

Sales of hybrid cars were up by 51.1 per cent, from 3473 sales in January 2020 to 5247 reported as sold in January 2021.

Sales of plug-in hybrid cars increased by 79.5 per cent over the same period, from 88 sales January 2020 to 158 reported as sold in January 2021.

Data compiled by William Davis.