New-car sales continued to rebound in March – for the fifth month in a row – but the numbers could have been higher if dealers could get more stock.
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Demand for new cars continued their recovery across Australia for the fifth month in a row, with official March results released today showing steady growth as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger continued to lead the charts and utes filled four of the Top 10 positions.

However, despite the positive signs, dealers say the figures could have been much higher – and they are taking more orders than they have cars to deliver – if not for severe stock shortages of popular models due to a global parts shortages caused by the coronavirus crisis.

March is historically the second-biggest month for new-car sales – after June – as the end of the Japanese financial year customarily sparks a sales push from most Top 10 brands who are trying to hit targets or forced to respond to sharp deals from Japanese rivals.

The tally of 100,005 new cars reported as sold across Australia in March 2021 represented a 22.4 per cent increase compared to the same month last year, when the pandemic started to hit.

However the March 2021 figure is 3.8 per cent below the five-year average prior to the pandemic – 104,000 – and only marginally higher than the 2019 result of 99,400.

Further, the data shows 263,648 new cars were reported as sold in the first three months of 2021 – up 13 per cent compared to the same period last year – however this is 4.2 per cent below the pre-pandemic five-year average of 280,500.

“We need to look at the longer term trends because 2020 was effectively a write-off, so right now everything is going to look good against last year,” said James Voortman, the CEO of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) which represents 3200 showrooms nationally.

Mr Voortman said while the AADA was cautiously optimistic about the sales recovery “many cars reported as sold in March were in fact orders placed months ago, and were simply delivered in March when they arrived”.

The car industry is grappling with severe stock shortages due to major disruptions to parts supply, in particular computer chips. Most modern petrol or diesel cars have between 50 and 250 semiconductors (pictured below) while advanced electric vehicles can have up to 3500 of the devices.

“We share the frustrations of our customers about the delays of weeks and in some cases months (to take delivery of a new car), but unfortunately there is little we can do about it,” said Mr Voortman.

“Our advice is for people to get in the queue and place an order,” he said. “The longer they delay, the longer it will be to take delivery of a new car.”

Mr Voortman said the AADA is asking dealers “to be as open as possible with customers and give them updates on arrival timing”.

“Unfortunately, car manufacturers are often advising us of further delays – after promising an earlier delivery date – and that is also frustrating because we are the ones who need to convey that message to consumers,” he said.

Despite the dramas, all Top 10 brands posted sales gains in March 2021, according to official figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Indeed, all but two of the Top 25 brands posted sales gains; only Honda and Land Rover hit reverse.

There were sales increases in every state and territory except the ACT. However the slowdown was skewed because of an uncharacteristic increase in deliveries in the nation’s capital in March last year due to a spike in insurance payouts and new-car replacements as a result of severe storm damage.

Market leader Toyota maintained its dominance – as the Toyota HiLux set a new March record as it continued to top the sales charts – with its vast model range demonstrating that buyers gravitate to brands they trust in times of crisis.

The Toyota HiLux (5319) and Ford Ranger (3983) filled the top two positions while rival utes the Mitsubishi Triton (2492) and Isuzu D-Max (1994) also were in the Top 10, finishing seventh and ninth respectively.

Toyota reported 21,319 new cars as sold in March 2021, an increase of 21.2 per cent. The Toyota tally was almost double that of its nearest rival Mazda (10,785, up 58.2 per cent) and ahead of third-placed Hyundai (6852, up 29.1 per cent).

Mitsubishi regained fourth place (6430, up 7.1 per cent) after slipping in earlier months due to a shortage of the Triton ute ahead of Ford (5977, up 23.1 per cent) which has had generally good supply of the Ranger ute, its biggest selling model.

Kia (5802, up 2.6 per cent), Nissan (4559, up 30.2 per cent), Subaru (4212, up 39.3 per cent) Volkswagen (3358, up 17.0 per cent) and MG (3303, up 167 per cent) rounded out the Top 10.

It was the second month in a row MG made it into the Top 10 after breaking the barrier in February; indeed, three Chinese manufacturers are now in the Top 20, with MG in 10th joining LDV in 17th (1468, up 188 per cent) and Great Wall Motors in 19th place (1021, up 173 per cent).

Subaru enjoyed a sales recovery due to the arrival of the updated Subaru XV, fresh stock of Subaru Forester, and the arrival of the new-generation Subaru Outback.

Although Volkswagen posted sales growth, it was held back by a lack of stock of the new Golf and updated Tiguan range, both of which are due in May. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen-owned Czech brand Skoda cracked 1000 monthly sales for the first time in Australia.

Nissan posted a stronger result than expected but has also been gripped by severe stock shortages. Dealers have told CarAdvice flagship models of the new Nissan Navara range have been delayed with April delivery dates now pushed back to July. Some Nissan dealers are quoting delivery times of next year for a new Patrol 4WD.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said one multi-franchise dealer who asked to remain anonymous as he is not authorised to speak on behalf of car brands.

“We’ve taken more than 100 orders this month and only been able to deliver 25 cars,” he said. “And I know we’re not the only dealer in that predicament.”

The dealer said most customers were “frustrated but understanding”, but some people did cancel orders. “They think we’re lying to them but we’re not. We want to sell cars, we just can’t get them.”

Our detailed analysis and charts, compiled by William Davis and James Ward are shown below:

TOP 10 CARS IN MARCH 2021

RankModelVolume March 2021Change year-on-year
1Toyota HiLux5319up 49.6 per cent
2Ford Ranger3983up 28.2 per cent
3Toyota RAV43522up 17.8 per cent
4Mazda CX-53022up 74.3 per cent
5Toyota Corolla2892up 2.8 per cent
6Hyundai i302514up 35.5 per cent
7Mitsubishi Triton2492up 37.5 per cent
8Toyota LandCruiser2244up 78.0 per cent
9Isuzu D-Max1994up 35.9 per cent
10Nissan X-Trail1932up 46.0 per cent

TOP 10 CAR BRANDS IN MARCH 2021

RankBrandVolume March 2021Change year-on-year
1Toyota21,319up 21.2 per cent
2Mazda10,785up 58.2 per cent
3Hyundai6852up 29.1 per cent
4Mitsubishi6430up 7.1 per cent
5Ford5977up 23.1 per cent
6Kia5802up 2.6 per cent
7Nissan4559up 30.2 per cent
8Subaru4212up 39.3 per cent
9Volkswagen3358up 17.0 per cent
10MG3303up 167.7 per cent

Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment in March 2021

MicroKia Picanto (550)Mitsubishi Mirage (156)Fiat.Abarth 500 (56)
Light < $25kMG MG3 (1238)Toyota Yaris (636)Suzuki Swift (471)
Light > $25kMini Hatch (107)Audi A1 (105)Citroen C3 (8)
Small < $40kToyota Corolla (2892)Hyundai i30 (2514)Mazda 3 (1577)
Small > $40kMercedes-Benz A-Class (358)BMW 1 Series (340)BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe (222)
Medium < $60kToyota Camry (852)Mazda 6 (144)Skoda Octavia (112)
Medium > $60kBMW 3 Series (567)Mercedes-Benz C-Class (364)Lexus IS (148)
Large < $70kKia Stinger (173)Skoda Superb (66)
Large > $70kPorsche Taycan (161)Mercedes-Benz E-Class (155)BMW 5 Series (31)
Upper Large < $100kChrysler 300 (13)
Upper Large > $100kMercedes-Benz S-Class (47)BMW 7 Series (20)Maserati Quattroporte (4)
People MoversKia Carnival (616)Honda Odyssey (162)Volkswagen Multivan (121)
Sports < $80kFord Mustang (130)BMW 2 Series (72)Toyota 86 (65)
Sports > $80kMercedes-Benz C-Class (139)BMW 4 Series (110)Mercedes-Benz E-Class (43)
Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (28)Ferrari (13)Aston Martin (10)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment in March 2021

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1744)Toyota Yaris Cross (846)Volkswagen T-Cross (655)
Small SUV < $40kMG ZS (1510)Hyundai Kona (1462)Mazda CX-30 (1225)
Small SUV > $40kAudi Q3 (852)Volvo XC40 (416)BMW X1 (279)
Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (3522)Mazda CX-5 (3022)Nissan X-Trail (1932)
Medium SUV > $60kMercedes-Benz GLB-Class (607)Volvo XC60 (422)Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class Wagon (374)
SUV Large < $70kSubaru Outback (1341)Toyota Prado (1211)Isuzu Ute MU-X (1179)
SUV Large > $70kBMW X5 (309)Lexus RX (185)Land Rover Range Rover Sport (181)
SUV Upper Large < $100kToyota Landcruiser Wagon (2244)Nissan Patrol Wagon (305)
SUV Upper Large > $100kBMW X7 (72)Lexus LX (67)Mercedes-Benz G-Class (49)

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

Vans < 2.5tRenault Kangoo (50)Volkswagen Caddy Van (45)Peugeot Partner (24)
Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota Hiace Van (884)Hyundai iLOAD (447)Renault Trafic (311)
4x2 UtesToyota Hilux 4X2 (1251)Isuzu Ute D-Max 4X2 (656)Ford Ranger 4X2 (273)
4x4 UtesToyota Hilux 4X4 (4068)Ford Ranger 4X4 (3710)Mitsubishi Triton 4X4 (2223)

The market

The tally of 100,005 new cars reported as sold across Australia during March 2021 represents a 22.4 per cent increase compared to the same month last year.

However, the figure is still 3.8 per cent below the five-year rolling average prior to the pandemic.

Industry analysts suggest severe stock shortages have contributed to the slower-than-predicted recovery.

Brands

Toyota remained market leader throughout March 2021 with 21,319 vehicles reported as sold, comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals, Mazda (10,785), Hyundai (6852), Mitsubishi (6430), and Ford (5977).

Models

Dual cab utes once again dominated sales nationwide, with the Toyota HiLux (5319) and Ford Ranger (3983) taking out the number one and two spots respectively.

The Mitsubishi Triton (2492) and Isuzu D-Max (1994) also broke into the top-10.