New-car sales rebounded for the sixth month in a row in April 2021, however most major brands say they could have delivered more vehicles if they could get more stock.
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New-car sales across Australia have bounced back from the worst April on record – during the peak of coronavirus lockdowns – to deliver the best April on record.

And the Ford Ranger has topped the monthly sales charts for only the third time in its history, displacing the Toyota HiLux which maintains its lead in the year-to-date tally and is on-track for its sixth annual win in a row.

Official new-car sales figures for April 2021 published by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show 92,347 vehicles were reported as sold, an increase of 137.2 per cent compared to the same month last year.

It was the sixth month in a row in positive territory after 31 months of decline in the lead-up to and during the peak of the global pandemic.

However, the industry expressed caution over the dramatic sales increase in April 2021 given April 2020 represented the sharpest decline since World War II.

The April 2020 drop of 48.5 per cent (versus April 2019) compared to declines of 80 per cent or more in Europe and the UK at the time.

Last month was an all-time record for April and 12.5 per cent higher than the five-year average in the lead-up to the pandemic.

From 2015 to 2019, an average of 82,100 new vehicles were reported as sold in April – one of the slowest months of the year due to Easter and school holidays – versus 92,347 declared last month.

However, most of the new cars delivered in April 2021 were ordered months ago and the industry says it now has a new battle on its hands: trying to secure enough new vehicles amid production slowdowns due to semiconductor shortages, as the local economy recovers faster than expected.

The production shortage is so dire, industry insiders say customers should place an order today if they want to take delivery of a new vehicle before the summer holidays at the end of this year.

“To get your car as soon as possible you need to get in the queue now to avoid even longer waiting times down the track,” said James Voortman, the CEO of the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA).

“We share the frustration of customers, but buyers need to be patient. Dealers are doing all they can, but frankly this is something beyond our control,” said Mr Voortman.

Most new cars have up to 300 semiconductors or computer chips – to power vehicle safety systems and infotainment technology – while electric cars can have up to 3500 of the devices.

In an attempt to keep production lines moving, luxury brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz have temporarily deleted some of their most advanced safety systems on certain models.

French car maker Peugeot has reverted to old school analogue instrument dials rather than digital displays in some of its cars.

For now, mainstream brands including market leader Toyota have vowed to not remove technology from their vehicles, instead opting to run their assembly lines with a reduced output.

Despite the ongoing challenges, automotive industry executives believe the Australian new-car market will return to 1 million-plus sales for calendar year 2021, pending any further supply constraints.

There were 355,995 new cars reported as sold across Australia in the first four months of 2021, an increase of 30.7 per cent compared to the same period last year, which was impacted by the start of the pandemic.

At this sales rate, the industry is on track to eclipse 1.06 million new-car deliveries in calendar year 2021.

Most vehicle brands canvassed by CarAdvice said they are hopeful showroom stock levels will improve in the second half of this year.

“We hope the worst is behind us, but the reality is we just don’t know right now,” said one car company executive speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Australian new-car market delivered more than 1 million sales for 12 of the past 14 years, most recently dipping below that threshold last year due to COVID-19.

The Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) says while April 2021 showed positive signs, the figures “need to be put in perspective”.

“We need to be cautious around the dramatic sales growth this April versus last April,” said Mr Voortman. “We need to remember April last year was the worst sales (decline) on record, and likely since World War II.”

He said a more accurate guide was the sales rate so far this year compared to the five-year average before the impact of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, numerous dealers contacted by CarAdvice expressed their frustration about not being able to deliver enough cars to meet demand.

“The visibility of what cars might or might not be coming is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said a multi-franchise new-car dealer with more than 20 years in the trade.

“No manufacturers can give us an accurate outline of what cars are coming in the next two to three months or beyond. We’re getting delays on delays,” he said.

Another dealer said he believes some car manufacturers are flying blind, and don’t have enough insight into how many cars their factories can deliver.

“It pains me to say it, but I genuinely think the car makers themselves don’t even know what’s going on. It’s a dead-set shambles,” said another veteran of the new-car business.“We’re all frustrated. Right now they look incompetent but the reality is there is nothing they can do about it.”

CarAdvice asked dealers representing most Top 10 brands if there were any new cars in “free supply” or which didn’t have a waiting list.

“I don’t think there’s a single brand that has free availability of new cars at the moment,” said another multi-franchise car dealer, in metropolitan Sydney.

Some dealers were thankful some customers didn’t want to take immediate delivery of their new cars as the showroom stock “helped make the place look busy”.

“If the customer doesn’t want their car straight away we try to keep it in the showroom or on the lot for as long as we can, otherwise the joint looks empty,” said one dealer.

Another major retail outlet said some customers were cancelling orders and trying to buy whatever they can – new or used.

Most customers, however, were starting to understand there is a global shortage of new motor vehicles.

“At first, some people thought it was a scam but once they shopped around and realised no-one could get them a new car, they started to understand,” said another new-car salesman, who spoke to CarAdvice on condition of anonymity because dealer staff are not allowed to speak to media on behalf of car companies.

Market leader Toyota maintained its dominance at the top of the charts (with 20,208 deliveries), ahead of Mazda (10,052), Mitsubishi (7513), Ford (7146), Hyundai (5772) and Kia (5707), while Nissan struggled with stock shortages (3500) and was nearly overtaken by Subaru (3451). Volkswagen and MG rounded out the Top 10.

The April 2021 figures show Australians continued to favour SUVs and utes over traditional passenger cars (such as sedans and hatches). Sales of passenger cars fell below 20 per cent for what is believed to be the first time in Australian automotive history.

The Ford Ranger topped the monthly charts outright for only the third time ever (the last times being in September 2020 and September 2017).

However the Toyota HiLux remained Australia’s top-selling vehicle outright when year-to-date figures are tallied.

The Toyota RAV4 was the second-biggest seller in April 2021 ahead of the Toyota HiLux in third place and the Toyota LandCruiser wagon in fourth place for the month, after an influx of deliveries.

A detailed list of categories and tables are included below.

VFACTS data sourced from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), compiled by William Davis and Alex Misoyannis.

TOP 10 CARS IN APRIL 2021

RankModelVolume April 2021Change year-on-year
1Ford Ranger5021up 226.0 per cent
2Toyota RAV44506up 135.8 per cent
3Toyota HiLux4222up 80.5 per cent
4Toyota LandCruiser2595up 180.8 per cent
5Mitsubishi Triton2458up 424.1 per cent
6Mazda CX-52353up 263.1 per cent
7Toyota Corolla2073up 73.5 per cent
8Mitsubishi ASX2028up 482.8 per cent
9Hyundai i302005up 188.5 per cent
10Isuzu D-Max1999up 163.0 per cent

TOP 10 CAR BRANDS IN APRIL 2021

RankBrandVolume April 2021Change year-on-year
1Toyota20,208up 95.7 per cent
2Mazda10,052up 232.6 per cent
3Mitsubishi7513up 333.3 per cent
4Ford7146up 217.5 per cent
5Hyundai5772up 156.8 per cent
6Kia5707up 129.0 per cent
7Nissan3500up 138.4 per cent
8Subaru3451up 169.2 per cent
9Volkswagen3123up 135.4 per cent
10MG3007up 626.3 per cent

Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment in APRIL 2021

MicroKia Picanto (605)Mitsubishi Mirage (113)Fiat 500 (28)
Light < $25kMG 3 (1150)Toyota Yaris (604)Mazda 2 (541)
Light > $25kMini (100)Audi A1 (56)Citroen C3 (1)
Small < $40kToyota Corolla (2073)Hyundai i30 (2005)Kia Cerato (1527)
BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe (219)Mercedes–Benz A-Class (215)BMW 1 Series (214)
Medium < $60kToyota Camry (1197)Skoda Octavia (176)Mazda 6 (162)
Medium > $60kBMW 3 Series (373)Mercedes-Benz C-Class (289)Lexus IS (115)
Large < $70kKia Stinger (104)Skoda Superb (80)
Large > $70kMercedes-Benz E-Class (106)BMW 5 Series (69)Porsche Taycan (48)
Upper Large < $100kChrysler 300 (6)
Upper Large > $100kMercedes-Benz S-Class (32)BMW 7 Series (5)Bentley sedan, Lexus LS (3)
People MoversKia Carnival (657)Honda Odyssey (109)Volkswagen Multivan (98)
Sports < $80kFord Mustang (202)Mazda MX-5 (80)Subaru BRZ, Toyota 86 (42)
Sports > $80kMercedes-Benz C-Class coupe/convertible (104)BMW 4 Series coupe/convertible (95)Toyota GR Supra (39)
Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (37)Ferrari coupe/convertible (23)Mercedes-AMG GT coupe/convertible (8)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment in APRIL 2021

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1779)Kia Stonic (769)Toyota Yaris Cross (730)
Small SUV < $40kMitsubishi ASX (2028)Hyundai Kona (1529)MG ZS (1350)
Small SUV > $40kAudi Q3 (550)Volvo XC40 (307)BMW X1 (270)
Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (4506)Mazda CX-5 (2353)Nissan X-Trail (1522)
Medium SUV > $60kBMW X3 (364)Lexus NX (332)Volvo XC60 (322)
SUV Large < $70kToyota Prado (1370)Subaru Outback (1041)Ford Everest (958)
SUV Large > $70kMercedes–Benz GLE (510)BMW X5 (263)Land Rover Range Rover Sport (210)
SUV Upper Large < $100kToyota Landcruiser Wagon (2595)Nissan Patrol Wagon (193)
SUV Upper Large > $100kMercedes-Benz GLS (93)BMW X7 (63)Lexus LX (42)

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

Vans < 2.5tVolkswagen Caddy Van (28)Peugeot Partner (26)Renault Kangoo (22)
Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota HiAce Van (733)Hyundai iLoad (389)LDV G10 (226)
4x2 UtesToyota Hilux 4X2 (907)Isuzu Ute D-Max 4X2 (423)Ford Ranger 4X2 (350)
4x4 UtesFord Ranger 4X4 (4671)Toyota Hilux 4X4 (3315)Mitsubishi Triton 4X4 (2256)

The market

The tally of 92,347 new cars reported as sold across Australia during April 2021 represents a 137.2 per cent increase compared to the same month last year, and a 12.5 per cent increase over the five-year rolling average.

Brands

Toyota remained market leader throughout April 2021 with 20,208 vehicles reported as sold, comfortably ahead of its nearest rivals Mazda (10,052), Mitsubishi (7513), and Ford (7146).

Models

Dual cab utes once again dominated sales nationwide, however the RAV4 SUV bumped off the HiLux as the best selling Toyota. The Ford Ranger was the best selling vehicle outright, with 5021 examples reported as sold.