Three of the growth segments in the Australian new vehicle market continued their momentum during September despite a 2.4% dip in the overall market compared with the same month last year.
A total of 100,200 new vehicle sales were recorded nationally last month, a fall of 2.4% compared with September 2016, according to the industry's official statistical service VFACTS.
Pick-up and cab-chassis 4X4 light commercial vehicles, together with small and medium Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) were the three growth segments during September. The 4X4 light commercials were up 11%, small SUVs rose 7.9% and medium SUVs increased 3.3% compared with September 2016.
SUV and light commercials remain the two robust areas of the market, accounting for a 58.8% share of total sales year to date, up from 56% in 2016.
Importantly, the overall market remained slightly ahead (0.2%) of last year's record total on a year to date basis.
All passenger car segments were affected by the downturn although sales of sports cars (+4.1%) and people movers (+5.0%) remain ahead of 2016 year to date.
Private sales of light commercial vehicles provided stimulus during September, increasing by 9.6% over the same month last year. Business sales of light commercials, too, were up by 7.9%, with 4X4 utilities and cab-chassis models as the segment's strongest sellers. Diesel remains the overwhelming engine type preference in the light commercial market, up by 10.5% in September to both private and non-private buyers.
In a month where SUV sales were down 1.3% overall, business (+1.7%) and government (+6.7%) sales both absorbed some of the shortfall from an 8.5% decline in private sales.
The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Tony Weber, said that while there was a modest sales fall in September, strong activity was recorded across several key segments.
"Any month over 100,000 total sales has to be seen as a strong outcome, proving there is continued value for the consumer in the market," Weber said.
"To keep this outcome in perspective, it has to be remembered that the September results of 2015 and 2016 were both very strong, and both those years ended in records."
The Ford Ranger light commercial was Australia's top-selling vehicle for September with 4,318 sales, followed by the Toyota Hilux (3,822), Toyota Corolla (3,055), Mazda 3 (2,776) and Holden Commodore (2,547).
Australia's motor industry had posted its fourth consecutive month of record sales and its highest August outcome, according to VFACTS.
The August result of 96,662 was 1.8% more than for the same month last year and continued the industry's steady growth year to date, with a 0.6% increase over the first eight months of 2016.
Industry sales over the eight months to the end of August totalled 788,968, compared with 784,380 for the same period in 2016.
Comparing the August outcome with that of the corresponding month in 2016, sales of small SUVs grew significantly by 22.8%, and medium SUVs by 14%. Light passenger cars also showed firm growth with a 7% gain.
Light commercial vehicles were also strong contributors to the healthy August total. Sales of pick-up and cab-chassis 4X4s rose by 23% over the same month last year, and two-wheel drive models increased by 2.7%.
Sales to private buyers during August provided impetus for the month's good outcome.
Private SUV sales rose by 7.6% however, the big gain was in private light commercial sales, which rose 23.4%. Light commercial sales to business also provided a useful boost with a 12.8% increase over August 2016. Across the market, private sales rose by 3.7%.
Diesels remained the preferred engine of choice among light commercial buyers during August. Sales of diesel engine light commercials to private buyers rose 26.3%, while diesel sales to non-private light commercial buyers rose 18.8% compared with the same month last year.
Toyota had a market-leading share during August of 19.2%, followed by Mazda with 8.8%, Hyundai (8.1%), Holden (7.2%), Ford (6.9%) and Mitsubishi (6.9%).
The Toyota Hilux remained the country's best-selling vehicle during August with 4,287 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger with 3,588, the Toyota Corolla in third place with 2,948, the Hyundai Tucson (2,206) and the Mazda 3 (2,163).