February 2017 saw a landmark shift in Australian automotive history when national sales of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) overtook those of passenger cars for the first time – on a monthly basis – according to the official VFACTS sales figures compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

SUVs managed 35,497 sales during February to record a 39.9% share of total industry sales. Passenger car sales of 34,740 took a 39% share. Light commercials was the third largest segment with 18.5%.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said February's results were "part of the evolution that has been occurring in the composition of the national vehicle market over many years".

"The steady, demonstrable shift in consumer preference which has been occurring in the past few years has culminated in this February outcome," Weber said.

"Of course, this one monthly outcome doesn't signal a landslide but clearly Australian buyers are attracted by the features and capabilities of new generation SUVs, and how these types of vehicles suit their needs and lifestyles."

Motor vehicle sales overall recorded a 7.7% fall in volume during February compared with the same month in 2016.

Weber said the results had to be put into context, given February 2016 sales were unusually strong.

"It's important to look at sales results in the proper context because February 2016 was an unusually strong month. It included one extra selling day and saw a lot of activity in the market. This resulted in a 6.7% surge over February 2015," he said.

Passenger vehicles sales were the most affected by February's decline, down 12.2%. SUV sales fell 3.7%, while light commercials dropped 5.6%.

Sales of sports cars and micro cars rose year on year in February but all other passenger car segments declined.

Two SUV segments rose in volume during February. These were upper large SUVs (up 19.6%) and medium-sized SUVs (+1.1%). Sales of small SUVs fell by 11% and large SUVs by 5.7%.

The nation's top-selling vehicle in February was the Toyota Corolla, which led the market with 3,392 sales. It was followed by the Toyota Hilux (3,386), the Mazda 3 (3,143), Ford Ranger (2,931), and Hyundai i30 (2,003).

Toyota was the leading brand in February with an 18.3% share of the total industry, followed by Mazda (11.1%), Hyundai (7.9%), Mitsubishi (6.5%), and General Motors' Holden (6.4%).