* See the Top 10 best-selling models and Top 50 All-brands by clicking on the title! *
In spite of record low interest rates and car affordability at a 38-year high, Australia is holding off buying new cars in October, down another 1.5% year-on-year to 91,236 deliveries, bringing the year-to-date total to 924,189 units, down 2% on 2014 but still on track to pass the 1.1 million annual mark for the third consecutive year. Private buyers (-4%) and business fleet (-2%) are dragging the market down, only government (+2%) and rental fleet, up 18% in preparation for summer, are keeping it afloat. The brands ranking brings to life 5 long-term automotive trends at play in Australia in a very transparent manner this month:
1. No more love for Australian-made
Over the past 18 months, all 3 local manufacturers (Holden, Ford and Toyota) have announced they will shit down their factories by 2017, meaning there won’t be any automotive industry left in Australia by then. The Holden “We’re here to stay” advertising campaign, mocked by a large part of the population, didn’t suffice: Australian consumers are falling out of love with locally-made cars faster than it took to write these lines, also helped by more flexible free-trade agreements with Asia making imported cars more affordable. Holden is down a horrendous 28% as CEO Gerry Dorizas left the company suddenly after only 6 months in the job. #1 best-seller in Australia for 15 consecutive years from 1996 to 2010, the Holden Commodore is down 22% to #6 even though its current generation is only debuting its 2nd year in market. Ford is down 15% and the Falcon, one of the Top 2 best-sellers in the country from 1960 to 2005, hits another all-time low of 396 units in October (-61%) and will end 2014 outside the Top 50 for the first time ever. Even the Toyota Camry (-15%) is hit.
2. Asian brands in progress
The flip side aspect of the above long-term trend is the “Asian-isation” of the Top 5 brands ranking. Last month the podium was 100% Asian for only the second time in the history of automobile in Australia after February 2013, with Holden kicked down to 4th place, its lowest since the brand was launched here in 1949. In October, after 4 consecutive months spent at #4 followed by 10 straight months at #3 (!), Hyundai reaches the overall 2nd spot below only Toyota for the first time in its 25-year presence in the country, bucking the overall market trend with sales up 3% to 8,401 units. Note Hyundai Australia has been led by CEO John Elsworth, a former Holden executive for 22 years, since 2012. The year-to-date charts has 7 Asian brands in the Top 10: Toyota (#1), Mazda (#3), Hyundai (#4), Nissan (#6), Mitsubishi (#7), Subaru (#9) and Honda (#10) with only Toyota manufacturing a small part of its sales locally, all other manufacturers being pure importers.
3. Australia has never bought as many premium cars
This month the entirety of brands evolving exclusively in the premium segment saw astounding year-on-year gains: Lamborghini is up 500%, Maserati up 278%, Infiniti and Land Rover both up 45%, Porsche up 28%, Audi up 26%, Lexus up 25% and BMW up 19%. Mercedes is the big winner with sales up 39% to 3,150 for a 3.5% market share, meaning it is one of Australia’s Top 10 brands for only the second time ever (after last May). The newly relaunched C-Class broke its monthly sales record at 862 sales (plus 70 coupés), 3 times its October 2013 score and outselling such mass sellers as the Honda Jazz, Ford Territory, Mitsubishi Lancer and Nissan Qashqai, let alone traditional rivals: the BMW 3 Series (368 sales), Lexus IS (240 units) and Audi A4 (176), also outsold by the CLA (371). In fact this month Mercedes is the 6th passenger brand with 2,247 sales, ahead of Ford (2,062), Honda (1,973) and Mitsubishi (1,166). The GLA, fresh in market, already leads the premium small SUV segment above the Audi Q3 and Lexus NX. Finally Mercedes performance arm AMG has sold 2,305 units so far in 2014, already an all-time record above brands like Alfa Romeo (2.292), Citroen (1.066) or Chrysler (1.562).
4. The SUV segment now represents almost one in 3 sales
SUV sales continue to boom in Australia, up 10% year-on-year in October and 5% year-to-date as passenger cars were down 8% and 6% YTD. 2014 will remain the first year that SUVs account for more than 30% of overall Australian new vehicle sales, this share standing at 31.6% after 10 months compared to 29.3% a year ago. This month the Small SUV segment is up 18%, Medium SUV up 16% and Upper-Large SUV up 23%, with only the Large SUV segment down 2%. Logically, the brand that has benefitted the most from this trend is SUV-only Jeep. In September it became one of Australia’s Top 10 selling manufacturers for the first time in its history, and if this month it is knocked down to #11 by Mercedes, Jeep is still up a fabulous 31% year-on-year to 2,628 sales and 2.9% share, two units above Honda, and over 500 ahead of Kia.
5. Chinese brands continue to pour in
Back in 2009, Great Wall was the first Chinese manufacturer to reach Australian shores. It was joined in 2011 by Chery and Geely with the latter restricting its launch to Western Australia due to different design and security requirements there. (See also my report Australia 2011: The Chinese have landed) Geely has never appeared in Australian sales stats because it is not affiliated with national organisation FCAI. In 2013, the rhythm accelerated with the launch of MG, Foton and LDV. The former does not pop up in sales stats for the same reason as Geely. Now that Ateco has taken over import and distribution duties for Foton and LDV, both are starting to be listed, albeit at modest levels for now. Foton stays #34 in October at 93 sales (#37 and 366 YTD) and LDV makes its grand entrance this month at #35 with 73 units of the V80 van sold. Chinese manufacturers still only represent less than 1% of the local market, with Great Wall (-76% in October) and Chery (-33%) currently in great difficulty, but Australia is one of only a few mature markets where the Chinese have ventured and are gaining invaluable experience with the view of a larger scale implantation in the near future.
Model-wise, the Toyota Corolla may have taken a decisive advantage in the race for the title of most popular model in Australia in 2014, outselling the Mazda3 by 891 units and lifting its YTD advantage from just 23 sales at end-September to 914 now. The Ford Ranger, Australian-engineered but Thai-built, breaks into the Australian Top 5 for the first time ever at #5 with sales up 19% to 2,405 units and outsells Ford’s entire passenger car line-up (2,062). The Ranger has seen its range extended this year notably with a fleet-focused four-wheel-drive XL Plus variant starting at $46,280 specifically developed to fulfil the needs of the mining industry, a very significant contributor in overall new vehicle sales in Australia. Notice also the VW Golf back inside the Top 10 at #9 and the Mazda CX-5 best-selling SUV in the country again at #10.
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Full October 2014 Top 10 models and Top 50 brands Ranking Tables below.