The Australian new vehicle market puts an end to a streak of three consecutive record years in 2018 at a 3% drop to 1.153.111 registrations erases the last three years of growth and returns the market to its lowest level since 2014, but this is still the 4th highest annual result in history. One of Australia’s favourite hobbies is real estate investment, so a weaker housing market across all major population centres (notably in Sydney) combined with tighter regulations on money lending and an ongoing devastating drought in rural Australia meant consumer confidence has weakened and new car sales have followed this year. The annual drop would have been greater if not for some artificial push: private sales stumble down 7.5% to 515.472 and 44.7% share vs. 46.9% in 2017 but all other channels improve their share: business sales edge down 0.8% to 480.696 and 41.7% vs. 40.7%, rental sales soar 8.1% to 77.195 and 6.7% vs. 6% and government sales lose 1.9% to 38.322. The rest of the market is held by heavy commercial vehicles. A methodology note: private buyers using their ABN (Australian Business Number) to buy a single car count as a business sale, while novated leases count as private. According to local outlet CarAdvice.com.au, the 2018 decline may also be due to a tightening of sales reporting methods. In Australia, new car sales data is not based on actual registrations but are self-reported by dealers and car companies and even though cars cannot be counted twice, they can be counted months and sometimes years before they are sold to a paying customer. The true number of new cars sold to paying customers from month to month typically ranges from 6 to 25% less than what the brands report.
All states and territories are down in 2018 except for Tasmania up 3.3% to 20.566. New South Wales cops the steepest decline at -6.6% to 370.967, Victoria is down 1.8% to 333.392, Queensland down 0.7% to 231.541, Western Australia down 0.6% to 97.174, South Australia down 1.9% to 71.027, Australian Capital Territory down 1.9% to 18.191 and Northern Territory down 4.7% to 10.253. Only one year after outpacing passenger cars for the first time, SUVs are powering through with a 6.4% year-on-year uptick to 495.300 sales or 43% share vs. 39.2% in 2017 whereas passenger cars dwindle down a scathing 15.9% to just 378.413 units and 32.8% share vs. 37.8% a year ago, meaning that cars account for less than 1 in 3 new sales for the first time in Australian history. Meanwhile, light commercials – mainly composed of pickup trucks – edge up 0.6% to 237.972 deliveries and 20.6% share vs. 19.9%. The most dynamic sub-segments are small SUVs (+18.4%) and medium SUVs (+5.5%) whereas large cars (-53.1%), medium cars (-27.1%) and sports cars (-32%) suffer greatly. In terms of country of origin of new cars sold in Australia, Japan (+4.3%) remains in the lead at 356.230 units or 31% share, followed by Thailand (+0.9%) at 300.274 or 26% share, South Korea (-3.7%) at 169.315 or 15% share, Germany (+0.3%) at 91.411, the US (-7.6%) at 44.492, the UK (-6.9%) at 33.011, Spain (-9.1%) at 14.818, Czech Republic (+13.5%) at 11.924, Mexico (+155.7%) at 11.859, Hungary (-15.5%) at 11.406 and China (+123.7%) at 10.489. Logically, as local manufacturing ended in 2017, sales of Australian-made cars have almost come to a complete stop at 4.225 units this year (-92.6%) including just 19 in December.
Toyota (+0.2%) is the best-selling carmaker in Australia for the 16th consecutive year and the 22nd time in total (first time in 1991), managing a 4th straight year-on-year gain to improve its share to 18.8% thanks to a little over 217.000 sales, eclipsing the 200.000 annual sales mark for the 7th year in a row and the 14th time in the past 15 years (record: 238.983 in 2008). Note no other carmaker has ever managed to hit 200.000 annual sales in Australia. Mazda (-4.4%) and Hyundai (-2.9%) hold onto their podium spots with stable market shares but it’s Mitsubishi (+5.3%) that steps up one notch on 2017 to land in 4th place, snapping what is believed to be its first-ever monthly podium finish in March and breaking a 20 year-old volume record at just under 85.000 sales, its previous best being 81.651 in 1998 when it was still a local producer. This means the annual Top 4 brands are 100% Asian for the first time in Australian history.
Former market leaders Ford and Holden both return ghastly scorecards this year, with Ford outselling archenemy Holden for the first time since 1997 which was the last year the American carmaker led the market outright. Ford (-11.6%) falls to its lowest volume in the country since 1966 (68.520) while Holden (-32.7%) implodes to its lowest annual tally since 1961 (58.710), posting an 8th consecutive annual decline. Shockingly, whereas the Holden Commodore was the outright best-selling model in Australia for 15 consecutive years up to as recently as 2010, there are no Holdens in the annual Top 10 (and even Top 15) for the first time since the brand was launched in 1948. The once almighty Commodore (-61.8%) plunges from #8 to #43 just as the Captiva (-46.8%), Trax (-27.5%), Astra (-27.4%), Trailblazer (-21.1%) and Colorado (-15.2%) all freefall and both the new Equinox (#63) and Acadia (#168) fail to convince. One slim silver lining: more private buyers purchased an imported Commodore in 2018 than the last of the locally-made models.
In contrast, Kia (+7.5%) continues to gallop ahead, pocketing a third consecutive annual volume record just under 59.000 units. Nissan (+2%) overtakes Volkswagen (-2.4%) while Honda (+10.1%) posts the only double-digit gain in the Top 20 to return among Australia’s favourite 10 carmakers, but most strikingly ranks 4th best-seller with private buyers. Notice also Isuzu Ute (+7.1%) nabbing a 10th consecutive year of gains. Further down, the Chinese post the most spectacular gains with MG (+401.2%), LDV (+134%) – becoming in November the first Chinese brand to rank inside the monthly Top 20 since Great Wall in June 2013 – and Great Wall itself (+94.1%) being the three most dynamic brands in the Australian market for 2018. Ram (+81.7%) thanks to the arrival of the cheaper 1500 pickup, Volvo (+43%) thanks to the new XC40, Alfa Romeo (+21%) thanks to the Stelvio, Aston Martin (+16%) and Ferrari (+14.8%) also impress whereas Citroen (-32.8%), Fiat (-26.4%), Land Rover (-23.1%), Infiniti (-16.4%), Peugeot (-16.3%), Maserati (-13.2%), Porsche (-12.8%), Audi (-11.8%) and Jeep (-11.4%) get pummelled. Finally, notice Alpine landing at #45.
Over in the models ranking, the Toyota Hilux (+9.8%) has ushered a new era of market domination by pickup trucks, posting a third straight year atop the Australian sales charts and breaking all-time records for both volume (51.705) and share (4.5%), with its respective previous bests being 47.093 last year and 4.2% in 2008. The Hilux becomes the first Toyota to sell over 50.000 units in a single year in Australia (previous Toyota record was by the Corolla at 47.901 in 2008) and is the first nameplate to overcome this milestone since the Holden Commodore in 2008 (51.093). The all-time annual volume record, also held by the Commodore (94.642 sales in 1998) should however remain safe for a while longer. Although dominant volume-wise, the Hilux is still far from the brand’s highest shares, held by the Camry at 5.9% in 1993 and the Corolla at 5.8% in 1990. Another sign the Hilux has now hit Commodore-like levels of domination is its current streak of 14 consecutive months at #1, the longest since the Holden Commodore over 13 years ago (22 consecutive months between October 2003 and July 2005). Toyota managed to neutralise the much-hyped launch of the Ford Ranger Raptor performance variant this year with new “Rugged” versions, and as a result the Ranger (-1.4%) actually recedes but still breaks its share record at 3.7%. It couldn’t dislodge the Hilux at any time this year, whereas it ranked #1 in September 2017. The Hilux also wins the battle of the lucrative 4×4 utes (Australian slang for pickups), overtaking the Ranger with 38.580 sales (+9.3%) vs. 36.883 (-0.1%).
The Toyota Corolla (-5.4%) is the best-selling passenger car in the country for the 6th straight year, distancing the Mazda3 (-5%) and Hyundai i30 (-2.1%). Oddly given the segment’s stunning performance over the past two years, there are still no SUVs in the Australian annual Top 5, with the Mazda CX-5 (+1.3%) holding onto the #1 SUV title for the 6th consecutive year with new volume and share records but stuck at an all-time high #6. Its direct followers both smash volume, share and ranking records: the Toyota RAV4 (+5.2%) and Nissan X-Trail (+11.8%) break into the Aussie Top 10 for the very first time, while the Mitsubishi Triton (+5.5%) surfs on runout prices before the arrival of the new generation this year to gain three spots to #7 and the VW Golf (+3.1%) returns inside the Top 10 for the 4th time in the past 5 years – and ever.
Other notable volume record-breakers in Australia in 2018 include the Toyota Prado (+16.1%) which we drove across Australia last year, Isuzu D-Max (+4.7%) capping the year with a record 5th place in December, Honda CR-V (+69.5%) boosted by the new generation and eclipsing a 18-year old record, Toyota Kluger (+17.9%), Kia Sportage (+4.4%), Nissan Qashqai (+3.4%), Subaru XV (+27.3%) and Hyundai Kona (+358.3%) ending its first full year of sales just outside the Top 30. The Toyota C-HR (+53.5%), VW Tiguan (+15.7%) and Isuzu MU-X (+12.4%) also impress in the Top 50 where the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (+5598%) slides in for its first complete year. There are no 2018 launches in the Top 100, with the most popular being the Volvo XC40 (#116), Mazda CX-8 (#117) and Mercedes X-Class (#118), a disappointing score for the latter, with other notable new entrants including the Lexus UX (#227), Ford Endura (#254), Jaguar i-Pace (#273), Alpine A110 (#277), Lamborghini Urus (#282) and Rolls Royce Cullinan (#300). A testimony to the current strength of the segment in Australia, 19 or the 22 nameplates mentioned in this paragraph are SUVs.
Full Year 2018 Top 53 All-brands and Top 350 All-models vs. Full Year 2017 figures below.