Australian car sales are racing towards a new record for calendar 2002 following the best-ever September performance, writes Mike Duffy.

Buyers ignored concerns over the possibility of war in the Middle East, a depressed stock market and the impact on the economy of a damaging drought and went on a shopping spree.

September sales of 66,034 were up an impressive 6,785 cars and commercials or 11.5% over the same month last year.

This prompted the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries to revise upwards its market forecast for 2002 to 820,000 vehicles – an outcome which would eclipse the former high water mark of 807,669 set in 1998.

GM-affiliate Holden, Ford and Toyota have kicked off October with big-budget sales campaigns to launch new model Commodore, Falcon and Camry models and the final quarter looks certain to defy all outside influences.

All the leading importers are releasing long-awaited models ‘down under’ at this month’s Sydney Motor Show. Therefore, as Ford challenges Holden’s remodelled Commodore with its new Falcon and Toyota embarks on its usual new model promotion for the replacement Camry, Q4 sales are expected to remain sky-high.

The year-to-date market of 612,429 is running ahead of the first three quarters of 2001 by 8.1% or 45,921 vehicles.

Commercial vehicle sales – and not the passenger segment – are responsible for the huge hike in sales between January and September.
Passenger vehicles were up 2.9% – a meagre increase compared to the 18.7% lift in light commercial sales and 28% in the heavy truck market.

Holden once again was the market leader in September with 21.5% ahead of Toyota on 18% and Ford on 13.9%. Mitsubishi had its best month for some time, claiming 8.9% of the Australian market.

Holden sales and marketing director Ross McKenzie is predicting the brand will finish the year with 180,000 domestic sales which would break the brand’s previous record of 173,854 vehicles set in 1973.

But McKenzie warned that the drought could affect sales of commercials.

The Holden Commodore was the top selling car with 6,719 sales compared with Ford Falcon’s tally of 3,679.

The new Falcon has generated a strong response while Commodore has earned its share of criticism for its new rear-end styling so the head-to-head sales of the two big cars over coming months will be the highlight of monthly VFACTS sales audits.

Mazda was the star of the importers – its new model activity lifting the brand to sixth for the month, one place higher than its YTD result. Hyundai got off to a poor start with the Getz small car, but supply problems were the prime cause.

September Sales:

1 Holden 13,992 (133,295 year to date)

2 Toyota 12,327 (115,527)

3 Ford 8,366 (79,569)

4 Mitsubishi 6,864 (49,216)

5 Nissan 4,096 (38115)

6 Mazda 3,719 (28,236)

7 Subaru 2,132 (21,264)

8 Hyundai 2,062 (28,597)

9 Honda 1,709 (17,507)

10 Mercedes-Benz 1,683 (12,705)