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Australia March 2020: Sales down -17.9% to lowest March in 11 years, swan song for Holden (+30.2%), Kia>Hyundai, Ram>Jeep

Soon-to-be-discontinued Holden soars in March on stock-clearing discounts. Picture PerformanceDrive.com.au

08/04 update: Now with Top 295 All-models.

In March, new car sales in Australia endure a 24th consecutive month or 2 full years of year-on-year declines – and their steepest drop yet – at -17.9% to 81.690 which is the weakest March result in 11 years – since March 2009 (75.650). New vehicle sales in Australia haven’t seen a year-on-year gain since March 2018, and Q1 volume is down -13.1% to 233.361 units, also the lowest since 2009 (212.970). If the fall isn’t as steep as the rest of the countries we’ve covered so far, it’s because the Australian government has been slower in shutting down non-essential businesses and imposing social distancing measures. Most car dealerships remained open to sell and service vehicles all through March but have had to reduce staff and shorten opening hours towards the end of the month as showroom traffic has slowed down to a trickle. Stricter stay-at-home measures are now in place with up to $11,000 fines in Sydney for people venturing out for non-essential reasons, and buying a new car isn’t considered essential, so April and May sales will most likely all but stop.

Sales are down in every State and Territory except the ACT (Canberra) up a spectacular 77% due to the purchase of replacement vehicles following a destructive hail storm in February. VIC (Melbourne) drops 5.858 vs. March 2019, NSW (Sydney) is down 5.226 and QLD (Brisbane) 4.130. Private sales hold ok vs. the market at -12.5% to 40.323 as do government fleets at -8.5% and 3.021 but rental sales (-26.3%) at 4.489 and business fleets (-23.1%) at 31.277 are hit particularly hard. In stark contrast with the rest of the market, hybrid sales triple year-on-year from 1.541 to 4.649 thanks to Toyota, holding a 7.6% share of the market this month. EV and PHEV sales are down -38.5% to 293 excluding Tesla which doesn’t disclose Australian sales data. New cars sold this month come from Japan at 27.100 (-11.7%), Thailand at 21.108 (-21.6%), South Korea at 11.658 (-12.1%), Germany at 5.007 (-41.1%), the US at 2.990 (-9.3%) and the only import source in frank positive: China at 2.127 (+48.2%).

The RAV4 (+111.2%) tilts Toyota into positive in March.

In the brands ranking, Toyota (+1.6%) swims upstream to a splendid 21.5% share thanks to the strongest February order intake since 2008 which translated into very strong March registrations. Orders have slowed drastically over the second half of March but it’s worth noting Toyota is currently able to complete all element of a new car sale online which could prove extremely useful in the coming months. The head of sales and marketing at Toyota Australia, Sean Hanley, said in an interview with local outlet CarAdvice that the carmaker is “continuing to deliver new cars to essential services like government, emergency workers, mining and construction but is already seeing a significant downturn in the tourism and leisure industry where there are already many cases of companies unable to proceed with their stated orders.” In contrast with Toyota, Mazda (-29.1%) and Mitsubishi (-40.1%) are in dire straits in the remainder of the podium.

Kia outsells Hyundai for the first time in Australian history.

Kia (+6.6%) brings another piece of positive news, climbing to 4th place overall for the 2nd time ever after last October, but perhaps more significantly, outselling “big brother” Hyundai (-31.4%) for the first time in Australian history. As a reminder Hyundai launched here in 1986 with Kia landing a decade later in 1996. Kia also breaks its Australian market share record at 6.9% vs. a previous best of 6.6% last January and is now on a stretch of 62 consecutive months of year-on-year gains with no decline since January 2015. The only additional gainer in the Top 10 is Holden (+30.2%) now in complete runout mode with discounts of up to AU$17.500 offered to clear all remaining stock as the brand will be discontinued by the end of the year. At #6 with 4.992 sales and 6.1% share, Holden’s swan song returns the brand to its levels of late 2018.

MG breaks its ranking, volume and share records this month.

Subaru (+0.2%) also edges up just outside the Top 10 but it’s the Chinese that score some of the most impressive performances this month: MG (+77.5%) breaks all its records – ranking (#16), volume (1.234) and share (1.5%) with Haval (+131.5%) and Great Wall (+67.7%) also on a roll. Ram (+30.3%) is also on a roll and cracks the Australian Top 25 for the third time after last October and November and, most symbolically, outsells fellow US manufacturer Jeep for the first time in Australian history. That’s a hell of a feat given imported Ram pickups are then remanufactured to right-hand-drive by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group in Melbourne with a three months waiting list despite the facility working 24 hours, five days a week to keep up with demand. Peugeot (+47.3%), runout Infiniti (+68.8%), Genesis (+1400%) and McLaren (+55.6%) also shine this month.

Ram trucks outsell Jeep for the first time in Australia.

Model-wise, the Toyota Hilux (-21.4%) continues on a paradoxical 29th consecutive monthly win (the longest such streak in over 17 years since the Holden Commodore in August 2003) coupled with an 8th double-digit year-on-year drop in the past 9 months and a 12th straight loss vs. its archenemy the Ford Ranger (-16.5%) in the lucrative 4×4 pickup battle at 2.804 (-17.4%) vs. 2.947 (-11.8%) for the Ranger. The Toyota RAV4 (+111.2%) once again posts the most spectacular gain in the Top 10, scoring a third ever podium finish (all within the past year) and smashing the SUV segment by outselling the Mazda CX-5 by 72%. Below the Toyota Corolla (+12.5%), the Holden Colorado (+38.2%) makes it 3 pickups in the Top 5 and is propelled by heavy stock-clearing discounts to its highest ranking since December 2017 (#4). There are no additional gainers in the Top 12, with the Holden Trax (+130.2%), Mercedes A-Class (+74.2%), Subaru Forester (+35.3%), Subaru XV (+6.8%) and Toyota Camry (+6.1%) standing out further down. The Mazda CX-30 (#31) snaps the recent launch crown off the Kia Seltos (#39) and we welcome the VW T-Cross and T-Roc each with their first 3 Australian units.

Complete models data will be uploaded to this article when made available to us.

Previous month: Australia February 2020: Toyota at highest in 7 years, RAV4 teases Hilux for pole position in 23rd successive market drop (-8.2%)

One year ago: Australia March 2019: Mitsubishi (+15%) up to record #2, places 3 models in Top 9 in 12th straight market decline (-7.1%)

Full March 2020 Top 48 All-brands and Top 295 All-models below.

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