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December sales spike brings hope to ailing Aussie vehicle market

By David Bonnici, 06 Jan 2021 Car News

Toyota Hilux was Australia's biggest selling vehicle in 2020

Australian vehicle sales dip below one million in 2020, but an unexpected silver lining led to a sales spike in December

Need to Know:

  • Vehicle sales totalled 916,968 in 2020

  • 2020 sales were down 13.7 percent compared to 2019

  • The easing of lockdowns saw a spike in vehicle sales

  • The Toyota HiLux is again Australia's biggest selling vehicle

Strong vehicles sales in December have helped the Australian vehicle industry finish one of its most challenging years on a positive note and with high hopes for 2021.

According to Australia’s peak automotive industry body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), December 2020 recorded 95,652 sales, a 13.5 per cent increase over the same period in December 2019 when 84,239 were sold.

This result follows a similar uptick in November 2020 whose 95,205 vehicles sales represented a 12.4 per cent gain over November 2019.

However, Australia’s 916,968 annual sales were still 13.7 percent lower compared to 2019, when 1,062,867 vehicles were sold. 

coronavirus hits car industry

FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said signs of the recovery of the new vehicle market were welcomed by automotive brands and is confident this will continue into 2021.

“It’s looking like we’re on the road to recovery from a health and economic point of view. The race to supply a (Covid-19) vaccine is well and truly underway, and we’re told we can expect one here in Australia by the second quarter of 2021,” Weber said.

MORE Pandemic leads to record used car prices

"This, combined with renewed consumer confidence could see the economy rebound quickly.”

Covid-19 did little to diminish Australia’s love affair with SUVs. While the 454,701 SUV sales in 2020 was 5.9 per cent down from last year, they accounted for just under half (49.6 per cent) of local vehicles sales in 2020, up from 45.5 per cent in 2019.  

There were 205,597 light commercial vehicles (LCVs) sold last year, mostly dual-cab utes, which was down 8.9 per cent from 2019, but they still accounted for 22.4 per cent of the market.

By comparison, passenger car sales dropped (29.7 per cent) in 2020, and made up just 24.2 per cent of the market.

“It’s interesting to note how the Australian market has evolved to the current point in which SUV and light commercial vehicles dominate, selling combined 72 per cent of the total market,” Weber said.

“With more Australians holidaying at home, we expect the popularity of SUVs to and LCVs to continue.”

Winners and losers

Not surprisingly, Toyota again ended the year as Australia’s best-selling vehicle manufacturer for the 18th year in a row.

It even managed to increase its market share from 19.4 per cent in 2019 to 22.3 per cent on the back of record hybrid sales.

Toyota sold 204,801 vehicles in 2020, just 965 less than its 2019 total and, for the first time, it finished a calendar year with best-sellers in a number of categories, in the form of the HiLux, top-selling SUV (RAV4) and passenger vehicle (Corolla).

Toyota Australia President and CEO Matthew Callachor

Toyota Australia President and CEO Matthew Callachor (above) said Toyota benefited from the upswing in sales at the end of 2020, which he attributed to people being unable to spend money on international travel.  

There was daylight between Toyota’s six-figure sales and second-place Mazda, which moved 85,640 cars last year compared to 97,619 in 2019. On the plus side, it managed to increase its market by 0.1 per cent to 9.3 per cent.

The rest of the top five was made up by Hyundai with 64,807 sales, Ford (59,601 of which 40,973 were Rangers) and Mitsubishi (58,335).

While Ford sales dropped by about 4000 in 2020, it overtook Mitsubishi to claim fourth spot, with the Japanese brand’s sales down by a whopping 24,915 vehicles, seeing its market share drop from 7.8 to 6.4 per cent.

The rest of the top 10 was made up by Kia (56,076), Volkswagen (39,266), Nissan (38,323), Subaru (31,031). Mercedes-Benz also had a relatively good year to beat Honda to the number 10 spot with 29,455 sales.

In a sad footnote, Holden’s demise at the beginning of 2020 saw it slip out of the top 10 for the first time in its history.

Benz's key rivals also had a good year, with both Audi (15,868) and BMW (23,520), managing to sell 160 and 213 more cars than in 2019 respectively.  

One of the biggest winners was MG, which almost doubled its sales from 8326 in 2019 to 15,253, almost as much as Suzuki (15,586). The Chinese carmaker increased its market share from 1.3 to 3.2 per cent.

The MG3 hatchback accounted for about a third of MG sales with 7158 sold, which was more than enough to comfortably outsell perennially popular models such as Mazda 2, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris.

2020 MG HS

Fellow Chinese brand LDV also enjoyed a boost in sales from 6480 to 9323 including 5581 T60 utes, which are becoming increasingly common on Aussie roads.

2020's Top-10 vehicles  

  • Toyota HiLux - 45,176
  • Ford Ranger - 40,973 sales
  • Toyota RAV4 - 38,537
  • Toyota Corolla - 25,882  
  • Toyota LandCruiser 70/200 Series - 25,142
  • Mazda CX-5 - 21,979
  • Hyundai i30 - 20,734
  • Mitsubishi Triton - 18,136
  • Toyota Prado - 18,034
  • Kia Cerato - 17,559