Sales of sport utility vehicles defied the overall market trend in Australia last month with three of the four SUV segments recording gains during May 2018 compared with the same month the previous year.

Small, medium and upper large segment SUVs gained ground in May despite a 2.1% overall market decline for the month, according to the latest data from the local motor industry's official statistical service VFACTS.

Industry sales last month totalled 100,754 units, down slightly from the record-setting 102,901 sales in May 2017. Nonetheless, year to date sales rose 2.1%.

SUV sales in May increased 8.4%. Light commercials dipped by 0.5% and passenger cars declined 15.6%, with micro-cars the only segment to show growth in that part of the market.

May were four-wheel-drive pick-ups and cab-chassis (a 3% gain over May 2017); small SUVs (up 36.1%) and medium SUVs (up 5.1%).

SUV sales showed solid growth across all four purchaser categories (private, business, government and rental fleets) last month while business sales of light commercials rose 5.3%.

The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said the SUV category gains revealed how brands were responding to buyer demand.

"The market is continuing to hold up well year to date with the past two months of falls offset by the gains recorded in the first quarter," he said.

"There is clearly consumer confidence in the market, as evidenced by seven months of record sales in the past 12 months. In the past 12 calendar months almost 1.2m new vehicles have been delivered to customers which is a remarkable achievement."

The Toyota Hilux remained Australia's top selling vehicle in May followed by the Ford Ranger, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3.

Toyota also remained market leader, with a 19.4% share, followed by Mazda (9.3%_, Hyundai (8.7%), Mitsubishi (6.9%) and Ford (5.7%).

Passenger vehicle sales declined 15.6% year on year in May, the FCAI noted.

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