Surprise new car sales success
There were some encouraging signs for the new-car market in July, although sales are still down on last year - and some brands remain in the doldrums.
The juggernaut continues to roll on mercilessly. Sales of Australia's favourite car brand rose by almost 6 per cent in a market that was down on the same month last year. The new RAV4, available for the first time with a hybrid option, toppled the CX-5 as the country's top-selling SUV, while the Corolla knocked the Ford Ranger out of second place. The brand's genuine off-roaders, the Prado and LandCruiser, were No. 1 sellers in their segments. The brand sold almost twice the number of SUVs as its nearest rival. Five of the top 10 selling vehicles for July were Toyotas.
Not to be outdone, Toyota's luxury offshoot had a strong month, mainly on the back of its new baby SUV, the UX. SUV sales were up by nearly 30 per cent over June and roughly 12 per cent year-to-date. Those numbers have taken the brand past luxury rival Audi for SUV sales, which is having a tough time - sales are down by more than a third this year. The UX, which joined the line-up towards the end of last year, outsold its Mercedes-Benz and Audi rivals last month, while the larger NX and RX are also proving popular.
Australian buyers continue to warm to Chinese vehicles, attracted by generous equipment lists and sharp prices. Sales so far this year are up by more than 80 per cent. Leading the way is MG, the British sports car brand reborn as a budget city car and SUV maker. Last month its MG3 light car was snapping at the heels of established nameplates such as the Honda Jazz and Suzuki Swift, while the MG ZS city SUV is also popular. Commercial vehicles specialist LDV is also kicking goals with its T60 4WD.
Much of the decline in sports car sales can be attributed to the waning popularity of the long-dominant Ford Mustang. Pony car sales have dipped by more than 20 per cent this year, although they still make up more than half of the affordable sports car market. Sports car sales are notoriously cyclical - they sell like hot cakes when they're new to the market but fall off a cliff in a couple of years. The Mustang is holding its own better than the once-hot, now-not Mazda MX5 and Toyota 86.
Most thought Mercedes would make a killing with the X-Class ute. After all, tradies have expensive tastes these days, gladly spending more than $60,000 on a work and play vehicle. The raw figures say X-Class sales are up by almost 50 per cent this year but that masks the fact that the vehicle has never really taken off. Only 111 people bought one last month, compared with 2850 Ford Rangers. It seems buyers can see that beneath the posh badge lurks the bones of a Nissan Navara.
You'd think an SUV-only line-up was a sure-fire recipe for success but Jeep continues to fall off shopping lists. The city-friendly Renegade, developed in conjunction with Fiat's 500X, is barely raising a blip on the sales charts, while the Compass and Grand Cherokee are both down by virtually a third. The Cherokee maintains its share of the mid-size SUV segment but at a very low rate of about 50 a month. That leaves the new Wrangler to do the heavy lifting for the brand. Sales this month were up by almost a quarter, a promising sign.