COVID drags new car sales down

Green shoots appear but Victoria’s public health crisis holds back new car sales rebound

The Ford Ranger muscled ahead of Toyota’s HiLux to claim the mantle of Australia’s best-selling new vehicle in September, a month where green shoots in some markets were overshadowed by Victoria’s sales doldrums. 

Dual cab utes look to be firmly back on the radar of Australian new car buyers following upgrades in September to both the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, with the Blue Oval brand managing to edge out its Japanese rival with 3726 sales versus the HiLux’s 3610 sales. 

Toyota’s RAV4, which has topped the sales charts for the past two months, was ushered back into third spot with 2433 sales, while the Hyundai i30 (1786) and Mazda CX-5 (1765) rounded out the top five.

Overall new car sales of 68,985 for September were still down a significant 21.8% on the September 2019 figure, with year-to-date sales totalling 644,891, representing a 20.5% decline on the same period in 2019.

Despite this there were positive signs, with the ACT (+3.4%), Northern Territory (+10.6%) and Western Australia (+1.5%) all recording new vehicle sales increases on their September 2019 performance. 

That wasn’t enough to counter the drag from other sectors of the market including Victoria, where the month-long Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions contributed to that state being the hardest hit, with a decrease from September 2019 of 57.7%. 

Sales in Queensland were down 7.9% compared with September 2019, slightly worse than NSW (-6%), but bettering the market performance in South Australia (-22.1%) and Tasmania (-34.2%).     

Chief executive of the FCAI Tony Weber said that while the market remained slow, the industry was hoping to see an increasingly positive trend as barriers to purchase are eased and consumer confidence returns.

“First of all, we are seeing COVID-19 health restrictions across Australia, and particularly in metropolitan Melbourne, continue to ease,” Mr Weber said.

“Another sign that the market may improve is the announcement by the Federal Government last week of an easing of lending conditions for private buyers and small business in Australia.

“Freeing up restrictions around financial lending will act as a stimulus for Australian industry.”

The statement from the FCAI said restrictive lending practices were one of the major factors contributing to the declining Australian new vehicle market, which has seen 30 consecutive months of decreasing sales.

Other factors cited for the market regression included natural disasters, unfavourable exchange rates and economic uncertainty.

SUVs remain the darling of Aussie new car buyers accounting for 47.3% of the market, followed by passenger vehicles on 25.7%, and light commercial vehicles claimed with 22.9% of the market. 

Toyota was the top selling brand for the month, with 12,936 sales, followed by Mazda with 7000 sales, Hyundai with 5273 sales, Kia with 5092 sales, and Ford with 4816 sales.