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No-one’s buying cars anymore

Australians bought a record number of new vehicles last year, but buyers continue to shun traditional hatchbacks and sedans, as three of the top ten selling nameplates were work utes.

The Toyota HiLux was the number one selling vehicle for the second time in a row, while Ford’s Ranger ute took the second step on the podium and the Mitsubishi Triton made the top ten.

The Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30 hatchbacks filled the next three places, but cars were outsold by SUVs for the first time in a calendar year.

“Australians bought 465,646 SUVs during 2017 for a 39.2 per cent share of the total market, compared with 450,012 passenger cars with a 37.8 per cent share,” the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber said.

“The shift in industry dynamic we observed last year has now become entrenched in our market. It is a growth pattern that we expect will continue.”

Ute sales are growing at double-digit rates and now account for one in five new vehicles sold.

Toyota Australia president Matthew Callachor says the two categories are intertwined.

“SUV sales have grown 14 per cent (over the past two years) while sales of light commercial vehicles have grown 18.9 per cent. This surge in demand for vehicles like HiLux can be viewed as an extension of the popularity of SUVs,” Callachor says.

The HiLux has been the best-selling commercial vehicle for the past 20 years but Callachor cites families and executives as adding to the potential buyer base and extending sales to more than 47,000 vehicles last year.

“Our most popular HiLux, accounting for one-in-four sales, is a (top-spec) SR5 four-wheel-drive with an automatic transmission,” Callachor says. “We’ve moved to the point where the (utes) have car-like features and comfort.”

“This is a global phenomena … I’m not suggesting this is the death-knell of the passenger car. Australians have a passion for sports-related vehicles and I suspect we’ll see more moves in that area.”

In their last year as locally-made cars, the Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry squeezed in to the top ten behind the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson SUVs.

Toyota remains the country’s top-selling brand for the 15th year in a row, with sales almost double the second favourite Mazda, while Hyundai sales dipped but the brand maintained third spot.

Kia was the fastest growing of the mainstream brands, with sales up by 28 per cent — or 12,000 vehicles — in 2017.

Total sales of 1,189,116 were 1 per cent higher than last year’s record year. It is the industry’s fourth record in five years.

Mr Weber attributed the record to the stability of the Australian economy, low interest rates and fierce competition among the more than 50 brands available to buyers.

“Clearly Australian consumers recognise the value for money that is on offer in the new vehicle market and responded accordingly,” he says.

He expects incremental growth again this year as manufacturers chase market share.

Eyebrows will be raised about some of the December sales figures, though.

Holden, which has had a bad year, registered growth of 58 per cent over last December, although there are serious doubts that those cars are in the hands of customers.

Thanks to a loophole in the FCAI’s recording methods, car makers routinely bolster sales numbers by getting dealers to register more cars than they can sell. Those cars are then sold over the following months as dealer demonstrators.


Toyota 216,566

Mazda 116,349

Hyundai 97,013

Holden 90,306

Mitsubishi 80,654

Ford 78,161

Volkswagen 58,004

Nissan 56,594

Kia 54,737

Subaru 52,511

TOP 10 MODELS 2017

Toyota Hi-Lux 47,093

Ford Ranger 42,728

Toyota Corolla, 37,353

Mazda3 32,690

Hyundai i30 28,780

Mazda CX-5 25,831

Hyundai Tucson 23,828

Holden Commodore 23,676

Toyota Camry 23,620

Mitsubishi Triton 23,604


Toyota Hi-Lux 3949

Holden Astra 3533

Ford Ranger 3458

Holden Colorado 3222

Mazda3 2807

Mitsubishi Triton 2645

Toyota Corolla 2641

Holden Commodore 2229

Mitsubishi ASX 2128

Mazda CX-5 2113

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