Sales of new motor vehicle sales in Australia “rose significantly” year on year in August 2011, according to the FCAI trade group.

Volume was up 7.3% to 88,082 units.

“These positive figures are good news for the automotive industry in Australia, and put the industry firmly on track to achieve the 1m sales target for 2011,” said FCAI acting chief executive Steve Payne.

He said the robust August sales reflected a range of factors, including the attractiveness of the very large range of models available to Australian buyers.

“We’re continuing to see a recovery in supply from earthquake and tsunami-damaged Japan, along with stronger sales in Queensland as the state recovers from severe weather events earlier in the year,” he said.

Among the top 10 best selling makes, Mazda had its best-ever month, ranking third in August with 9,138 new vehicle sales. Passenger vehicles accounted for 6,783 of Mazdas sold, up over 44% on August 2010.

Sales of Holden’s locally manufactured vehicles were up 55% month-on-month, reflecting strong demand for the company’s Commodore and Cruze models.

Payne said private and business customers were continuing their shift toward compact SUVs and 4×4 utility vehicles, with respective sales growing 4.9% and 6.7% year to date.

“The luxury SUV segment also continues to strengthen, up 18.9% year to date.

“Despite these encouraging figures, year to date new vehicle sales are still trailing 2010 levels by some 4.4%, or 30,357 vehicles.”

The Mazda 3 was the best selling single model in August, with 4,234 reported sales. Holden’s Commodore and Cruze models placed second and third with 3,682 and 3,234 sales, followed by the Toyota Corolla (3,100) and Toyota HiLux (2,823).

Toyota was the best selling brand in August, selling 15,885 vehicles for an 18% market share, followed by Holden with 11,534 (13.1%) and Mazda with 9,138 sales (10.4% market share).

“Unprecedented mining, construction and infrastructure investments are driving the Australian economy,” Toyota sales and marketing chief David Buttner said.

“Automotive producers such as Toyota are benefiting from strong demand for new vehicles being generated as a result of these huge injections of capital.

“Sales of LandCruiser 70 Series – a perennial favourite among miners and other hard-core applications – were up more than 37% compared with the same month last year.

“LandCruiser 200 series sales rose more than 88%, which is another key indicator of strong economic activity.”

A 1m sales result would make 2011 only the fourth calendar year that volume has been reached. The others were 2010, 2008 and 2007 – which was an all-time record of almost 1,050,000.

Buttner said demand continued to outstrip supply for commercial vehicles as well as models such as the Kluger and LandCruiser Prado SUVs.

“We are pushing hard to get extra allocations for Australia of sought-after vehicles and variants to meet the consistently strong customer orders.”