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January 2018 Vehicle Sales – Trends in the Australian Motor Vehicle Market

The first month of 2018 is now over, and it appears that the upwards automotive sales trends are continuing into the new year. 

According to the latest VFACTS data, January’s auto sales have comfortably beaten January 2017. While they’re well down month to month, December sales are driven by end of year promotions, typically leading to weaker sales at the start of the new year. Should the year on year growth be maintained, that would put us on track to exceed 90,000 new vehicle sales in February, potentially laying the foundation for annual sales to exceed 1.2m units (1.189m in 2017). 


VFACTS Vehicle Sales by month January 2018


Year-on-Year, results have strengthened across every state and territory except New South Wales (NSW). Recent trends have also been somewhat reversed, with the post-mining boom states (Western Australia – WA and Queensland – QLD) regaining some of the ground lost over the past 12 months. Victoria (VIC) also recorded a solid start to the new year, clearly outperforming 2017, as did South Australia (SA) as it continues to adjust to life beyond Holden. 


VFACTS New Vehicle Sales by State January 2018


Sales of Passenger vehicles continue to trend down, dropping 5% year on year, at the expense of SUVs, and Light Commercial Vehicles. SUVs are now clearly the preferred vehicle option in Australia, with these results marking a continuation of the trend observed through 2017. Looking ahead through 2018, SUVs share is only likely to grow, as we see OEMs increasingly launching small SUV crossovers that are likely to cannibalise the small car segment.


VFACTS Vehicle Sales by Type January 2018


As dealers sell the last of the local production, Australian-made vehicles are down to 2% of local sales, falling from 5th spot down to 7th behind the USA and England. Comparing the year on year results, Australia’s automotive production has been replaced by Thai-made vehicles, with Thailand now just 3% behind Japan in terms of market share. 


VFACTS Vehicle Sales by Country January 2018


Shifts in the market are clearly evident when we consider the top brands. While most marques have made gains year on year (and Toyota retains top spot), Holden and Ford both declined in comparison to January 2017. Hyundai has taken advantage of this, clearly establishing itself in third place, but still well behind Mazda in second.

The bottom end of the table remains tight, with just 454 sales separating 7th and 10th. Within this sector of the market, the most significant gains were made by Honda, leapfrogging Kia and Subaru to jump three spots into eighth.


VFACTS Top Brands January 2018


Toyota’s market dominance is again highlighted when we look at the top selling vehicles, with the Hilux and Corolla both within the top five models. The Toyota Hilux again takes top spot as Australia’s best-selling car, selling 600 units more than its closest competitor, the Thai-built Ford Ranger. The overall strength of LCVs is reflected in their sales figures, with both growing year on year.

Mazda has also performed strongly this month, also claiming two of the top five vehicles with the Mazda3 and CX-5. The Mazda3 recorded strong January sales, finishing just 59 units out of 2nd place, while the CX-5 displaced the Hyundai i30 to sneak into 5th spot on the ladder. 


VFACTS Top 5 Vehicle Models January 2018


Commenting on the January results, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Chief Executive Tony Weber, said: “2017 was a record year for the industry and we’re pleased to see that strength continuing in the January 2018 sales results”.

While this year will see significant change and disruption, with dealers updating business practices around finance and insurance, OEMs increasingly shifting towards lower-emissions vehicles, and ongoing conversations around the potential removal of tariffs on imported vehicles, consumer demand for new vehicles remains strong, with the January 2018 data suggesting that we’re looking at another year of strong sales results.


Topics: Automotive Research automotive trends