April car sales hit hard by coronavirus

New car sales figures reveal the worst sales slide since local records began.

The economic damage caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has been laid bare in Australian new car sales figures for the month of April, which reveal a nearly 50% decline over the same month last year. 

New vehicle sales figures announced by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) reveal that 38,926 sales were recorded for the month, a fall of 48.5% over the same period last year, and the largest single decrease of any month since the industry-standard VFACTs figures were first recorded in 1991.

Year-to-date sales figures for April were also down dramatically at 272,287 sales, versus 344,088 in 2019, although stronger sales in the first three months of the year helped mitigate the overall year-on-year decline to 20.9%.

“Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major influence on the April sales result, and reflects a downturn in the broader economy right across the country,” said Tony Weber, chief executive of the FCAI. 

“Figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 31% of Australian citizens have experienced a decrease in income due to the pandemic. 

“In addition, 72% of Australian businesses reported that reduced cash flow is expected to have an adverse impact on business over the next two months.

“These conditions inevitably impact consumer confidence and purchase decisions.”

However, while the coronavirus pandemic is clearly responsible for most of the carnage, Australian new car sales have been on the slide for more than two years now, with the April figures representing the 25th consecutive month of declining year-on-year sales. 

Environmental, economic and political factors, along with tight credit lending restrictions, have all contributed to this fall, said Mr Weber.

He called on Federal and State Governments to consider the automotive industry, which employs over 65,000 people in Australia, when compiling their recovery plans. 

“The JobKeeper and JobSeeker payment programs put in place by the Federal Government are a welcome initiative,” Mr Weber said.

“However, we believe the scope needs to ensure high turnover and low margin businesses, such as new car dealerships, are covered.

“These businesses are often the backbone of local communities and in the current environment, many are facing overwhelming challenges.

“As well as continued business initiatives, support to bolster consumer confidence is imperative to the strength of our economy.

“We have begun to see a slight lift in consumer confidence as the COVID-19 restrictions start to ease.  We really need further measures to support this confidence and continue the positive trend.

“Initially, we would ask that the instant asset write-off package is extended to further stimulate business purchasing.”

Turning to the details of the sales figures, the Passenger Vehicle Market was down by the largest percentage versus April 2019, recording 14,659 vehicle sales (-61.6%), followed by the Sports Utility Market which lost more sales at 15,167 vehicles but off a higher base (-45.7%). 

The Light Commercial Market was also down by 6165 vehicle sales (-39.5%) and the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Market was down by 633 vehicle sales (-21.5%).

Toyota was again market leader in April, its sales of 10,325 vehicles equating to a dominant 26.5% market share.

Second-placed Mazda recorded 3022 sales for a market share of 7.8%, while Kia rounded out the top three with 2492 sales and 6.4% share.

Toyota’s market dominance is writ large in the list of Top 10 models, where no less than five vehicles wear Toyota badges.

The top three spots were a claimed by the Japanese giant, with the HiLux (2339 sales) again Australia’s most popular vehicle, beating out the RAV4 (1911), and the LandCruiser (1603).

Only the fourth-placed Ford Ranger managed to prevent a Toyota whitewash of the top five spots, with the Corolla (1195) and Prado (947) placing fifth and sixth respectively. 

Queensland new vehicles sales of 8028 for the month saw the state place third in total sales behind NSW (11,938) and Victoria (9,911), while its 48.7% year-on-year sales decline was a slight improvement over the 50-plus per cent reductions seen in NSW, SA, Tasmania and Vic. 

Top 10 individual models (by sales volume):

 Rank  Vehicle  April '20  April '19  % diff.
 1 Toyota Hi-Lux
2339 3621 -35.4
 2 Toyota RAV4 1911  1238 54.4
 3 Toyota LandCruiser 1603 2034 -21.2
 4 Ford Ranger 1540 3011 -48.9
 5 Toyota Corolla 1195  2429 -50.8
 6 Toyota Prado 947  1473 -35.7
 7 Kia Cerato 860  1650 -47.9
 8 Holden Colorado 854  1252 -31.8 
 9 Isuzu Ute D-Max 760  1354 -43.9
 10 Hyundai i30 695  1910 -63.6