December new car sales slump means saving thousands in January

Australian new cars sales got sucked into a black hole, starting about half-time, last year. That’s great news if you’re in the market for a new car right now


Frankly, new car sales last year were still looking almost OK until about September, but then the Vomit Comet started its big downward dive, and the year finished with overall vehicle sales in Australia down 36,000 units across all categories.

Heavy trucks went up, light commercial sales were flat, and SUVs - the new de facto family wagons - actually climbed 30,000 units. Cars took a hit, however - with almost 72,000 fewer cars sold Down Under, compared with 2017.

Disaster for Ford & Holden

I guess for the dwindling number of people who still care about Ford versus Holden, it’s worth noting that Ford beat Holden for the first time in 21 years in 2018. Last time they managed that was in 1997 - off the back of a market-leading hat-trick.

This is mainly thanks to the Ranger ute - market’s second most popular vehicle in 2018 - and of course the death trap Mustang, even though sales there are easing.

But there’s really not much to celebrate in either camp - with CarAdvice >> reporting both Ford and Holden posting their lowest sales since the 1960s - based on archived data from the Bureau of Statistics - nice scoop there.

It’s a race to the bottom for Ford and Holden, sadly. What an incredible turnaround. Holden shed an incredible 30,000 sales in 2018. (That’s about one-third down.) Ford lost another 9000 units in the same time.

Bullshit PR statements notwithstanding, it’s a bloodbath. Holden has a backlog of vehicles you can literally see from space, and Ford is becoming a basket case of obscurity.


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Top performers

The top five vehicles, in order, are Hilux, Ranger, Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

Check out my list of recommended cars >>

Toyota Hilux remained Australia’s most popular vehicle in 2018

Toyota Hilux remained Australia’s most popular vehicle in 2018

Hilux might be on top but I think there are better buying opportunities in Mazda BT-50 >> and Mitsubishi Triton >>

Audi sales - which were already off the pace - falling another 3000 in 2018 (from 22,000 to 19,000). BMW maintained its 23,000-ish footprint, but Mercedes-Benz fell about 5000 units - from 37,000 to 32,000.

Bear in mind that all cars are imported now - and head offices overseas are completely unsympathetic about local economic conditions leading to a slowdown here.

‘Sell more’ is always the mantra handed down from Mount Olympus during that weekly conference call, which, incidentally is also the only time a local car company CEO doesn’t pretend he’s God.

The top 10 carmakers in order are Honda in 10th spot, then Volkswagen, Nissan, Kia, Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Mazda and Toyota.

Why Toyota is in front

Toyota remains massively in front - mostly because they have vehicles in every segment. For example, Toyota is about 100,000 units in front of Mazda in second. 14,000 of those units are LandCruiser 200 - no competitor from (for example) Madza, in second, or Hyundai in third spot.

Another 10,000 LandCruiser light commercials there, and 1000 Priuses - or Prii, if you prefer the Latin. And 9000 Hiaces - no van from Mazda. No ute from Hyundai. No hardcore off-road wagon from either. Toyota sells another 22,000 of those, in addition to the LandCruiser.

There’s more than 56,000 reasons why Toyota leads the market, right there.


Of the Top 10, sales rose for Toyota, Mitsubishi, Kia, Nissan and Honda - while Mazda, Hyundai, Ford, Holden and Volkswagen fell.

December in particular was a bit of a shocker across the market, with overall sales almost 15 per cent lower, compared with December 2017. This is particularly encouraging news for car buyers in January.

I think it’s fair to say that many dealers (and their parent importers) are feeling bloated with surplus stock, and looking like targets, right about now.

That’s good news for you if you’re in the market for a new car in 2019. Especially if you know how to drive a hard bargain - just pitch a low offer, stand your ground and walk if they don’t go for it. It’s not that hard.

You might be amazed how malleable the price suddenly becomes when the dealership sees you - a serious buyer - headed for the door. But you have to be tough and remember - the normal rules of polite appeasement do not apply in a sales negotiation.


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