The long-running boom in small car sales is showing the first signs of slowing according official Australian motor industry figures released on Wednesday.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries' monthly VFACTS report showed that sales in the small passenger car segment fell by 1.8% last month compared to a year-to-date increase of 2.4%.

The light car segment grew by 1.8% in September - much lower than the rise of 20.1% for the year to date.

At the same time, large passenger cars, spurred by the redesigned General Motors Holden Commodore, showed some signs of a sales improvement. The segment was down 7.1% compared to the same month last year but this was nevertheless a significant improvement on the year-to-date fall of 21.3%.

Commodore sales were up 8.5% on September 2005 following the first full month on sale of the new generation model. Honda Accord sales - Australia sources both the four-cylinder Euro model from Japan and the US-style V6 from Thailand - were also up, by 7.6%, following the release of an updated model.

"The release of new models is beginning to improve the fortunes of the large car segment and we expect that trend to strengthen when Toyota launches its new Aurion [the V6 version of the locally-built Camry] family sedan later this month," said FCAI chief executive Peter Sturrock.

"It's also notable that medium car segment sales rose a significant 11.5% last month, driven by sales of a number of new models including the Subaru Liberty, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Camry.

"While fuel prices clearly remain a market driver, Australians have not fallen out of love with larger cars and the launch of several new models is giving them a reason to look again at large and medium segments.

"Consumer concern may also have been eased somewhat by the recent falls in crude oil prices which are now being reflected at the pump."

So far this year the Australian market is down 29,660 vehicles or 3.6% on 2005 when a record total of 988,269 motor vehicles were sold.

Sturrock said the FCAI has revised its sales forecast for the year downwards from 980,000 to 970,000.

"While we expect fourth quarter sales to be strong, it' s clear that four years of record sales have, for the moment, come to an end," noted Sturrock.

"It's important to remember, however, that only five years ago motor vehicle sales were averaging about 780,000 per annum, so you could say that the Australian market has permanently shifted into a higher gear."