New vehicle sales data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showed government purchases continued to weaken last month with reductions in comparative monthly and year to date sales across all vehicle categories.

Overall, governments bought 22.5% fewer vehicles in August this year than they did a year ago. Similarly, governments have bought 9.7% (around 3,800) fewer vehicles during the eight months of 2012 than they had for the same period in 2011.

Meanwhile, private and business purchases of SUVs and light commercial vehicles delivered an otherwise healthy outcome for vehicle sales in August. 

Sales of SUVs in all categories have grown 18.6% (4,105) over the same month last year and 30.0% overall (by 46,907 to 203,316 units) compared with the same period in 2011. The strongest growth was in the small SUV segment which has improved 61.5% with 15,637 more units on a year to date basis. 

Sales of light commercial vehicles increased 19.1% (2,896) last month, compared with August in 2011, driven by a 38.2% (3,160) increase in the 4x4 Pickup/Cab Chassis segment, and less so by a 30.9% (82) increase in sales of vehicles in the less than 2.5t segment. 

Passenger vehicle sales were down 3.7% (1,811) in August compared with the same month last year but the category still continues to be the highest selling, with 376,084 passenger cars sold so far in 2012. 

Overall, 728,047 vehicles (cars, SUVs, light commercials and trucks) have been sold since the beginning of 2012. This is a 9.4% increase (62,738 vehicles) on sales for the first eight months of 2011. August sales increased in every state and territory compared with the previous August, except Tasmanian sales which were down 13.7% compared to last August, and 7.3% down on a year to date basis. 

On a month to month basis, 93,552 vehicles were sold in August 2012, an increase of 6.2% (or 5,470 vehicles) compared to August 2011. 

Sales of locally manufactured vehicles have weakened slightly, with 91,360 sold for the year to date, up 1.0% from just over 90,000 this time last year. 

For the fifth month in a row, the Toyota HiLux was the top selling model with 4,010 sales, followed by the Mazda3 (2,990), the Toyota Corolla (2,945), the Holden Cruze (2,628) and the Holden Commodore (2,435). 

Toyota was the best performing brand overall in August selling 17,996 vehicles, followed by Holden with 11,271 and then Ford with 7,795.