WERE it at school, the Australian new car market’s half-year report would read something like: “Tries hard, but more effort required, C minus.”
The latest VFACTS sales data for June, released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries today, shows buyers flocked back to some corners of the new-car showrooms last month in the traditionally strong finish to the financial year, with Toyota’s Corolla hatchback and sedan fleet special snaring the top spot for the month with 4648 sales.
The Corolla’s result – a 10.8 percent jump on last June and enough to push year-to-date sales 5.7 percent ahead of 2013 – comes in a month where a big push into trade utes helped to round out the best-selling models list.
Toyota’s HiLux, the ageing Mitsubishi Triton due for a ground-up makeover next year, Ford’s Ranger and Nissan’s soon-to-be-renewed Navara ute all helped to flesh out a month that still has the market lagging 2.4 percent compared with the first half of last year.
However, Toyota’s strong result, which also marks slightly more erosion of its dominance to just 18.1 percent of the Australian new-car market compared with 18.5 percent for the same six-month period last year, comes as the Japanese brand called for an end to luxury car tax.
Toyota’s range-topping Kluger seven-seat SUV models, the range-topping V6-engined Tarago and almost all the Prado and LandCruiser range, are all slugged by the tax.
The Australian Tax Office raised the threshold to $61,884 from July 1, an increase of $1568 on the rate set for the 2013-14 financial year.
"Australian motorists are already heavily taxed with GST, stamp duty and registration fees when buying a new car, as well as road tolls and a hefty tax on fuel," Toyota executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said.
"New-vehicle buyers should not be singled out to pay the additional burden of a so-called luxury tax, especially one that is so inefficient and poorly designed," he said.
The tax office has left the threshold for fuel efficient cars that use no more than 7.0L/100km of fuel at $75,375.
More than ever, buyers are skewing away from traditional passenger car fare. Hardest hit, though, are the city car specials – the likes of the Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Micra and surprisingly popular Fiat 500 – where sales are down 33 percent so far this year.
Slightly larger city cars such as the Hyundai i30, Toyota Yaris and Mazda2 are also down by 11.9 percent so far this year, reflecting similar falls at the cheaper end of the small (Corolla and Mazda3, down 1.2 percent) and medium (Toyota Camry, Mazda6, down 13.2 percent) segments.
Those segments making inroads include the cheaper end of the large car segment, buoyed mainly by storming Commodore sales that pushed the locally made Holden to number seven in the top 10 list, people-movers (up 28.6 percent year to date) as buyers warm to the new, boxy Honda Odyssey, and small luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Overall, 118,309 new cars were sold in June, a slight fall on the number of cars sold last year. Converted to a financial year, the last 12 months have bumped total sales above 1.1 million cars to near record levels.
While market leader Toyota sold a strong 20,808 cars in June, Holden firmed up in second spot with 12,332 sales – its highest turnover in three years.
Hyundai posted record sales of 10,008 for the month that helped elevate it to the third best-selling brand for June, pushing top three stalwart Mazda, on 9374 sales, down to the number four spot as the Korean car maker’s i30 small car matched the pace of market leaders.
In the luxury stakes, Mercedes-Benz leads the pack with 15,006 sales so far this year, up 14.0 percent on the first six months of last year, followed by BMW (10,856 sales, up 8.7 percent) and Audi (9661, up 18.5 percent).
As the countdown well and truly starts to the demise of Australian manufacturing, the three remaining brands held steady for the first half, although buoyed significantly by Holden’s Commodore.
Ford last month significantly wound back production of the Falcon large car and Territory SUV, which both softened in June with 552 sales for the large sedan range – its fifth-worst result on record – and 1135 for its SUV cousin. Sales are down 32.5 percent on the first half of last year.
Commodore, meanwhile, continues to mask the soft performance of its sibling, Holden’s locally made Cruze small sedan and hatchback range. The large car range snuck back into the top 10 with 3156 sales, up almost 60 percent on the first six months of last year, while Cruze has fallen 24.8 percent after pegging only 2146 sales for June.
Toyota’s locally built Camry and Camry Hybrid mid-size sedans dominated their segment, although with 2378 sales for the month the models are barely treading water compared with last year. Aurion sold well for the month, shifting 798 units, but is still down 19.1 percent on the first half of last year.
Australian car makers have lost a further 2.5 percent of their market share to the full-line importers so far this year. They represent only 51,286 of the 559,951 cars sold in the last six months.
The VFACTS data shows that New South Wales is the only state or territory in Australia to increase its new vehicle numbers in the last six months.
A slowdown in the number of business and government buyers so far this year has been offset by the shift of private buyers into SUVs and trade utes.
TOP 10 SELLERS FOR JUNE
1. Toyota Corolla 4648
2. Toyota HiLux 4276
3. Mitsubishi Triton 4124
4. Mazda3 4059
5. Hyundai i30 3243
6. Ford Ranger 3210
7. Holden Commodore 3156
8. Toyota Camry 2378
9. Volkswagen Golf 2261
10. Nissan Navara 2262
TOP 10 BRANDS FOR JUNE
1. Toyota 20,808
2. Holden 12,332
3. Hyundai 10,008
4. Mazda 9347
5. Ford 8715
6. Mitsubishi 8281
7. Nissan 7992
8. Volkswagen 6597
9. Subaru 3851
10. Honda 3115