Supply constraints held Australian June motor vehicle sales down to their lowest level in eight years, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

Official VFACTS data showed that 96,157 new vehicles were sold in June, 11.6% fewer than last year’s all-time record (108,722) for the same month.

“It is clear that sales in the past month were again affected by supply constraints resulting from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami,” FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said. “Manufacturers and distributors affected by the Japanese natural disaster are reporting a reliable return of supply,” he added. “We would expect the effect to dissipate over coming months.”

Despite the constraints of recent months, 496,236 new vehicles were sold in the first half of the year, providing a fiscal year total of 1,000,642 vehicles – the fourth time the 1m vehicle sales barrier has been broken in a financial year.

“Depending on the extent of the rebound in supply, we remain hopeful that total sales of more than a million vehicles are still achievable for the full year in 2011,” McKellar said.

He said the impact of the recent hike in FBT [fringe benefit tax] on cars, announced in this year’s federal budget, could have a negative effect on recovery.

“Consumer demand has softened and we do have concerns that sales could be hampered as the FBT changes begin to influence demand patterns,” he said.

Locally manufactured sales outperformed the market in general in June, recording 2.2% growth compared with the same period last year. 

The increase is attributed to the recent commencement of sales of the locally manufactured Holden Cruze.

Holden claimed market leadership for the second month in a row in June with 12,827 deliveries, ahead of Toyota with 12,514 sales and Ford with 9,216. 

Holden led the market for the second consecutive month with 13.3% after selling 12,827 vehicles in June. Its Commodore and Cruze finished the month as the second and third best-selling cars overall.

Holden sales, marketing and aftersales chief John Elsworth said June was traditionally a strong selling month for the industry with multiple end of financial year promotions competing in the market.

“We’re very pleased with our June results but the market remained tough for our competitors and many are still working through issues resulting from the Japanese earthquake,” he said.

“We’re planning to finish 2011 in a strong sales position thanks to the Cruze hatch and new-generation Barina [to be launched in the second half], which are two really important players in Holden’s product renaissance.”

Holden has sold 62,570 vehicles year to date for a 12.6% market share.

Toyota Australia said it was confident sales of its new vehicles would rebound in July and August as stock levels return to normal.

Despite a severe shortage of vehicles in June, Toyota remained the clear market leader in 2011 with 85,100 sales - over 22,500 ahead of Holden.

Toyota sales and marketing chief David Buttner said May and June sales had been significantly affected by production disruptions caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Buttner said production had returned to normal in Australia, Thailand and Japan - the three countries that provide cars for the local market.

"During July, we will receive almost all the vehicles we ordered earlier in the year," Buttner said.

"As the month progresses, customers will have access to a full complement of cars with a much wider choice of grades and colours.

"By August, the number of vehicles available to our dealerships will be back to normal, putting us and our dealers in a position to satisfy customer demand."

Buttner said the return to "business as normal" had occurred more quickly than anyone expected when the natural disasters hit Japan on 11 March.

"This has been a remarkable turnaround, which has been made possible by the efforts of Toyota and its suppliers around the world.