Despite continuing increases in national sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in September, the overall vehicle market in Australia declined over the month, according to the latest data from the motor industry's statistical service, VFACTS.

National vehicle sales for September reached 94,711, down 5.5% from September 2017. Significantly, overall passenger car sales at 30,487 in September 2018 now account for just under one third of the total market, at 32.2%.

Despite the September fall in passenger car sales, SUV sales climbed 6.2% to 41,420, underpinned by a significant gain in small SUVs of 25.7%. Furthermore, there was also considerable growth in the sale of upper large SUVs, which rose by 10.4% in September. During the month light commercial sales fell by 2.3% to 19,298 despite this category once again taking out the two top selling models.

In year-to-date sales, the market dipped 0.9% under the record-setting total for the nine months of 2017. Cumulative industry sales year to date reached 881,005 to the end of September.

The overall decline in the market was led by falls in sales to private purchasers, which declined by 15.8% compared to September 2017. Government fleet sales also saw a smaller decline of 2.6%, however business fleet purchases remained buoyant, up marginally by 0.3%.

Tony Weber, the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, acknowledged that the results demonstrate an adjustment to the market after a sustained period of record sales.

"What we are seeing is a slightly slowing market, after the industry has produced five years of record sales over the past six years," Weber said.

"After a record 2017, year to date sales in 2018 are sitting just 0.9% below last year's numbers. This demonstrates the inherent strength of the market. The decline in passenger vehicle sales and corresponding growth in SUVs also shows that the traditional family car continues to evolve in Australia."

The Toyota Hilux was Australia's best-selling vehicle during August with total sales of 4,338, followed by the Ford Ranger with 3,228 and the Toyota Corolla with 2,917. The Hyundai i30 (2,508), and the Mitsubishi ASX (2,138) both moved up the list from August to round out the top five.

Toyota again led with an 18.4% share of the September market, followed by Hyundai (8.6%), Mitsubishi (8.0%), Mazda (7.5%) and Nissan (5.5%).

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