SUVs have outsold passenger cars for the past four years, now utes are vans are getting ready to overtake them.
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Australians bought more new utes and vans last month than hatchbacks, sedans and wagons – or, as the industry defines it, light commercial vehicles outsold passenger cars.

It means utes and vans were the second biggest sellers in Australia last month after SUVs, as demand for passenger vehicles continues to wane.

According to official data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), 19,326 light commercial vehicles were reported as sold in February 2021, up 24.3 per cent compared to the same month the prior year.

It was a close contest. Utes and vans only narrowly outsold passenger cars, of which 19,194 were reported as sold.

This isn’t the first time passenger cars were outsold by vans and utes. In 2020 utes and vans outsold passenger cars in six out of 12 months – but not for the full year.

Passenger cars (222,103) comfortably outsold utes and vans (205,597) for the 2020 calendar year – and both were beaten by SUVs, which recorded 454,701 sales over the same period.

Nevertheless, the February results represent an increasing trend in the Australian new-car landscape, where private and business buyers are using four-wheel drive utes as dual-purpose vehicles.

While they might be loaded with tools and working gear during the week, utes are also used for the school drop-off and grocery shopping, as well as weekend sports.

There are also many white-collar ute buyers – who find them comfortable and refined enough for weekday commuting – but also use them for towing, camping, and four-wheel driving on weekends and holidays.

The February 2021 data showed four-wheel drive utes represented 74 per cent of the light commercial segment. Best selling examples are the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.

Other parts of the segments include 4x2 utes, vans, and buses, though it does not include heavy commercial vehicles such as trucks.

Passenger vehicles are separated into 16 different segments in the monthly new-car sales report, encompassing micro vehicles (such as the Fiat 500), sedans (such as the Kia Stinger), wagons, sports cars and people movers.

Best-selling vehicles passenger vehicles come from the small cars under $40,000 segment, including the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato. Strong performers in other segments are the Toyota Camry, Kia Carnival and Ford Mustang.