The first quarter of the 2017/2018 financial year has ended, and it appears that vehicles sales are following a similar trend to one established in the previous financial year.
According to the latest VFACTS data, September sales beat August's numbers but decreased slightly year-on-year. After hitting a peak in June, sales dropped sharply in July and have been following our August prediction, with a steady rising back to around the 100,000 mark. While year-on-year monthly sales have dropped 2.5%, year-to-date sales are slightly ahead, with a 0.2% increase, which is indicative of a market that is heading for a similar annual result to FY 2016/2017.
Year-on-Year, every state and territory in Australia recorded a decline in monthly sales. Compared with September 2016, New South Wales (NSW) fared the best with a fall of 0.7%, followed by Victoria and Queensland (both 2-3%), as the eastern states continue to outperform the rest of the country.
Post mining boom Western Australia (WA), which was the worst performing state in June, has made a minor recovery with sales only declining 3.1% in September. For contrast, in June WA was the only state in the country to see a decline in sales, dropping 5.5%. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had the worst decline in year-on-year monthly sales. It was closely followed by South Australia (SA), where sales plunged 8%, adding another challenge to this month’s final closure of Holden’s Adelaide car factory.
Sales of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) in September were flat year-on-year, hovering around the 39,000 mark. Conversely, sales of passenger vehicles dropped significantly, dipping below SUV sales and demonstrating the extent to which growing consumer appetite for larger cars is becoming an established trend. Both Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) and Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCV) outperformed September 2016 sales, and now make up almost one in every four vehicles sold.
At the model level, the big news for September was the rise of the Ford Ranger. It finally beat the Toyota HiLux to become the country's top selling vehicle, rising from fourth place a year ago. Ford Ranger sales went up a whopping 33% year-on-year, with over 4,300 monthly units sold.
Looking at the passenger market, The Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla went from first and second place in September 2016 down to fourth and third in September 2017 respectively. This once again reinforces the trend towards larger cars that we are seeing. The trend is not lost on carmakers such as Kia, Audi, BMW, Hyundai and Mercedes, who have looked to get a slice of Australia's SUV market with new models this year.
In a rather nostalgic touch, the Holden Commodore appeared in the top five with a 7% year-on-year increase, and around 2,500 sales. Holden officially closed the doors last Friday, marking the end of Australian car manufacturing.
Commenting on the September figures, the Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Tony Weber, noted that while sales for September were lower than a year ago, strong activity was recorded in key categories.
“Any month over 100,000 total sales has to be seen as a strong outcome, proving there is continued value for the consumer in the market,” he added. “To keep this outcome in perspective, it has to be remembered that the September results of 2015 and 2016 were both very strong, and both those years ended in records.”
Overall, the September 2017 VFACTS data show that the auto market in Australia is robust with the annual result likely to marginally outperform the previous financial year. Although year-on-year sales declined in every state, strong performances in the SUV, LCV and HCV segments have helped kept sales above 100,000. A strong result for Ford, successfully unseating the Toyota HiLux at the top of the sales charts, and nice to see the Commodore making an appearance in the top five, coinciding with Holden's local manufacturing swan song.