Australian car sales soared to a new record in the first half of the year topping the 400,000 vehicle mark for the first time, writes Mike Duffy.

The 8.5% rise in registrations to 406,966 cars and commercials was achieved despite a string of strikes which have disrupted production. Sales in the first half of the year suggest the best full-year figure of 807,669 set in 1998 is there to be broken.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry revised its sales forecast to 810,000 on the basis of the June VFACTS audit.

It was the second time in three months the FCAI had lifted its market estimate after a sales surge.

A total of 78,781 vehicles were registered in June - 5224 units or 7% higher than the same month last year.

However, the passenger market was line-ball with last year - 21 vehicles down - while light truck sales rose by 20.7% and heavy commercials soared by 30.8%.

Toyota took market leadership in June for the first time since December, 2000 – outselling Holden by 1380 vehicles, 17,037 vehicles to 15,657.

However, GM affiliate Holden retains market leadership in year-to-date calculations with 88,476 sales to Toyota's 77,554 - a margin of 10,922 vehicles.

Ford was third with 52,320 vehicles and Mitsubishi fourth on 31,709.

It was Holden's highest first half sales in history, beating the previous record set in 1973.

The General sold 9403 more vehicles in June than the same month last year and 2990 in advance of the previous record.

Holden's product strength will increase in the second half with the new all-wheel drive Suzuki-built Cruze going on sale followed by the VY Commodore and Ute plus the new Opel-built Vectra and Combo light commercial van later in the year.

The Commodore was the top selling car with 7,548 units in June - well ahead of the Ford Falcon’s 4746.

Toyota Camry sales totalled 2,911 compared with Mitsubishi’s Magna/Verada’s 2,648.

Toyota said January-June sales were just 682 units short of the brand's best first half result in 1999.

Several importers put in strong performances with Nissan achieving its best June sales for three years with 5,379 registrations.

The top 10 selling car companies in the first half of 2002 (June results in brackets):

1 Holden 88,476 (15,657)

2 Toyota 77,554 (17,037)

3 Ford 52,320 (10,023)

4 Mitsubishi 31,709 (6,003)

5 Nissan 25,906 (5,379)

6 Hyundai 21,302 (4,241)

7 Mazda 18,094 (3,857)

8 Subaru 14,050 (2,310)

9 Honda 11,232 (2,125)

10 Mercedes-Benz 7,889 (1,493)

Top ten cars January-June

1 Holden Commodore 41,730

2 Ford Falcon 23,921

3 Toyota Corolla 16,821

4 Toyota Camry 14,434

5 Holden Astra 13,621

6 Hyundai Accent 11,952

7 Mitsubishi Magna/Verada 11,260

8 Nissan Pulsar 8,691

9 Mitsubishi Lancer 8,201

10 Ford Laser 7,357