Australian car buyers shrugged off the flow-on effect of a fragile US economy to keep sales on track for a new record by the end of the year, writes Mike Duffy.

A total of 69,782 cars and commercials were sold last month – 3,597 or 5.4% up on the same month last year.

This pushed year-to-date sales to 476,748, 35,487 vehicles or 8% more than the first seven months of 2001.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ VFACTS audit of car sales indicates that if the market is sustained at the current level, the 807,669 record set in 1998 will be broken.

GM affiliate Holden passed the 100,000 mark in July, the earliest in a year it has ever breached the six-figure mark.

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The market leader took its year-to-date sales to 104,380 – 2,584 vehicles more than in 1973, the only other year Holden has achieved six-figures by the end of July.

Holden confirmed it was on schedule to break its full-year record of 173,854, also set in 1973.

The Commodore – also exported to the Middle East and South America as the Chevrolet Lumina – spearheaded Holden’s top selling stable of car lines.

It claimed 8,000 sales in July for 48% of the large car segment and a year-to-date total of 49,730.

This put Holden’s large car a record 21,024 units ahead of arch-rival Ford’s Falcon – which could manage only 4,785 sales in July – even though it is being run-out in the build-up to the launch of the substantially redesigned BA model next month.

Holden’s burgeoning sales performance, plus growing exports to the US and the Middle East, will make the introduction of a third shift at its South Australian production plant all the more imperative.

The company already is selling as many cars as it can produce and Holden is not about to give its competition a chance to catch up with the pace it has set at home and overseas.

GM is openly delighted with Holden and new product chief Bob Lutz has heaped praise on the car giant’s Down Under affiliate.

Toyota’s Camry managed 2,402 sales ahead of the Mitsubishi Magna/Verada’s 1,959.

But Toyota’s new Corolla, now fully imported from Japan, beat the home-grown product with 2,640 sales.

Holden held almost 23% of the July market with 15,904 sales.

Toyota, buoyed by a 20% surge in sales of commercials, four wheel drives (SUVs) and people movers (minivans) over the same month last year, came in second place with 12,893 for 18.5% of the market.

Ford had a disappointing month with 9,219 sales for a 13.2% market share – meagre by its front-running performances of the past.

Mitsubishi would also have been disappointed with its 7.4% share, achieved with the sale of only 5,156 vehicles.

Nissan was the best of the importers with 5.8% ahead of Mazda (5.2%) and Hyundai (4.3%).

The top 10 selling car companies in July:

1  Holden 15,904 units
2  Toyota 12,893
3  Ford 9,219
4  Mitsubishi 5,156
5  Nissan 4,082
6  Mazda 3,605
7  Hyundai 3,009
8  Subaru 2,672
9  Honda 2,025
10 Mercedes Benz 1,539