Australia's Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) reported sales of 87,102 new vehicles during February 2019 down 9.3% year-on-year.

Year-to-date sales fell 8.4% to 169,096 units.

"Given the current challenging economic conditions, including a downturn in the housing market, the automotive industry is not surprised by the slower start to the year," said FCAI CEO Tony Weber.

Only light commercial vehicle sales rose during February, by 6%. Other segments showed a decline – passenger vehicles off 21.3% and the sports utility sector down 6.3%.

The top three selling vehicles were the Toyota Hi-Lux with 4,431 sales, the Ford Ranger (3,377) and the Mitsubishi Triton (3,155).

The top selling passenger vehicle was the Mazda 3, with 2,655 sales during the month.

New vehicle sales in Australia declined over a challenging 2018, according to the motor industry's statistical service, VFACTS.

Weber acknowledged the lower result in 2018, off 3% from the 2017 record sales year.

"New vehicle sales results in 2018 reflect a challenging climate across the Australian economy including a slowing housing market, tightening of money lending and the drought," he said.

He highlighted 2018 as having been a year of continuing adjustment for motoring consumers with a further shift to SUV sales at the expense of passenger vehicles.