Poor new car sales in December have capped off a year of market correction for the Australian new car industry, which posted its worst annual total since 2014.
National vehicle sales for December fell by 14.9 per cent from the corresponding month in 2017 to 87,528 vehicles.
The best-on-ground for December - and for 2018 - was once again Toyota, which now holds almost 19 per cent of the total new car market, as well as Australia's two favourite new cars in 2018: the HiLux light duty commercial and Corolla small hatch and sedan.
Out of the top ten new car brands in Australia, half of them – including second-placed Mazda, third-placed Hyundai, fifth-placed Ford and sixth-placed Holden - sold fewer new cars in 2018 than they did in 2017.
The figures for the former powerhouses from Detroit (Holden and Ford) make for sobering reading: Holden fell almost 30,000 sales in 2018 to slip to sixth place with 60,751 cars sold, while Ford dumped around 9000 sales to move ahead of its arch-rival for the first time since 1997, with 69,081 sales for the year.
As for the top-selling brands that managed to outperform their 2017 numbers in 2018, first-placed Toyota only added some 500 cars to its 2017 tally of more than 217,000 cars, while tenth-placed Honda (up 4742 to 51,525), seventh-placed Kia (up 4078 to 58,815) and fourth-placed Mitsubishi (up 4290 to 84,944) all posted solid lifts.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry (FCAI) figures released today show that 1,153,111 new cars, SUVS and light commercial vehicles were sold in 2018, versus the 1,189,116-vehicle score posted in 2017. This is a difference of three per cent overall, while December’s score of 87,528 is almost 15 per cent down compared to December 2017.
The December score is the tenth consecutive drop over the corresponding period in 2017. FCAI chief Tony Weber noted that a number of wider economic factors have played a part in the overall new car sales picture.
"New vehicle sales results in 2018 reflect a challenging climate across the Australian economy including a slowing housing market, tightening of money-lending, and the drought," said Mr Weber in a statement.
It’s a sentiment echoed by the industry, with Volkswagen Australia chief Michael Bartsch saying that he’d never seen a year like 2018 in his experience.
"It's a consequence of a lot of things. And I think that's what has made the year so challenging, is that you can't put your finger on one thing," he told WhichCar.com.au.
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Bartsch did suggest, however, that the industry is in the midst of a self-correction phase over what are known as ‘cyber cars’, or vehicles that have been marked as sold, but are in reality not on the road as new vehicles.
"Everybody starts out the year with a sales target, and for people like me, everything hangs off achieving a certain volume a year," said Mr Bartsch. "When you have a market like Australia that turns down dramatically, all of a sudden, the volume plans that you had for the year, the budgets that you set for the year are starting to disappear."
Mr Bartsch explained that dealers are then being pressured to report cars as sold that are not really sold. "For all intents and purposes, the public is being told that Brand X has sold 10,000 cars for the month," he said. "The reality of it is, only 8000 found real owners and the rest of them are demonstrators, service loan vehicles, or reported as sold to rental car companies, but the dealer owns the rental car company," Mr Bartsch explained.
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He noted that the FCAI is aware of the issue and are moving for the industry to implement a change that will see sales data compared with registration data.
"I'm very pleased to say is that the FCAI is aware of the problem," said Mr Bartsch. "[The FCAI is] now going through a process where, with all its members, [it is] moving towards a self-regulatory environment where reported data will be overlaid with registration data from the government to confirm that they have indeed been sold or registered.”
The policy will be tabled at the next FCAI board meeting in March 2019.
Standings Volume Share
1 ▲ Toyota 217,061 18.8%
2 ▼ Mazda 111,280 9.7%
3 ▼ Hyundai 94,187 8.2%
4 ▲ Mitsubishi 84,944 7.4%
5 ▼ Ford 69,081 6.0%
6 ▼ Holden 60,751 5.3%
7 ▲ Kia 58,815 5.1%
8 ▲ Nissan 57,699 5.0%
9 ▼ VW 56,620 4.9%
10 ▲ Honda 51,525 4.5%