2018 Q1 car sales: Winners and losers

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With industry sales results for the first quarter (Q1) of 2018 available, now is a good time to look at the five car brands showing the highest numerical growth Down Under, and the five that have gone hardest in the other direction.

One bad or good month may be a flash in the pan, but a full quarter of any calendar year is long enough to start picking trends. With the overall car market up 4.4 per cent this year over 2017’s all-time record, many OEMs should be happy.

The reason we’ve chosen numerical rather than percentage changes is the former skews towards mass-market brands, making it a more relevant analysis of what car buyers are out there doing.

MORE: VFACTS: March 2018 new vehicle sales


Winners:

Honda: +5357 units, 15,129 total, up 54.8 per cent

Honda has turned back the clock five years, and is on track to hit the magic 60,000 annual unit target it’s longed to return to. It’s amazing what good product and a lack of factory-destroying natural disasters do for a company…

Driving the growth is the new CR-V, amassing 4538 sales to be up about three-fold over its tired predecessor.

The Civic hatch/sedan family has grown ‘only’ 67 per cent to 4166, HR-V sales are up 12.3 per cent to 3276, and the humble Jazz is belying a weakening city car segment by growing 24 per cent to 2280 units YTD.

Toyota: +3951, 52,465 total, up 8.1 per cent

The market leader isn’t slowing down during its first year as a full importer. Quite the opposite. After a slow Q1 in 2017 – having flooded the market with demo Camrys in late ’16– it has flown out of the blocks this year.

The HiLux remains the biggest-selling new vehicle in the country and both the 4×4 (up 1902 units) and 4×2 (up 399 units) are growing well — and that’s before the new Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X versions go on sale.

Factory supply of the C-HR small crossover is now where it needs to be, though in fairness it wasn’t on sale for all of Q1, 2017. It’s contributed 1401 extra sales, up nearly 200 per cent.

Kluger sales have climbed 1016 (41.6 per cent), and we’ve also seen double-digit percentage growth from Fortuner, HiAce Bus, LandCruiser CC and wagon, RAV4 and Prado — enough to help offset declines in 86, Yaris, Corolla, Camry (down 19 per cent) and Tarago.

Mitsubishi: +2799 units, 21,215 total, up 15.2 per cent

Australia’s #4 brand in the sales race — ahead of both Ford and Holden now — has racked up 21,215 sales this year. Its wares are cheap, no-nonsense and well supported. And it’s strong in SUVs and light commercials, which are the areas of market growth.

Existing models that grew in Q1 include the Outlander (up 26.9 per cent, or 847 units), ASX (14.2, 512) and Triton 4×4 (13.0, 660). But of the most assistance was the new Eclipse Cross small SUV, adding 1603 incremental sales.

Hasn’t hurt the fleet-favoured ASX though… More here.

Isuzu Ute: +1433 units, 5928 total, up 31.9 per cent

This minnow brand just keeps on keeping on. Australia is now Isuzu Ute’s most important market outside its manufacturing home of Thailand.

There are many more modern utes out there in-market, but the D-Max is trading on its famed reliability, constant deals, and improved running costs, to grow once again despite impediments.

Sales of the 4×2 are up 24.4 per cent or 541 units, and the 4×4 is up 61.5 per cent or 453 units. Year to date D-Max 4×4 sales of 2762 units put it ahead of the LandCruiser 70-series, Volkswagen Amarok and Mazda BT-50. Its 4×2 market share is 12.4 per cent.

Meanwhile its MU-X SUV spinoff is outselling more fancied rivals like the Ford Everest and Holden Trailblazer once again, nabbing 1976 sales overall, growth of 439 units. It’s a pretty remarkable tale of continued success.

Kia: +1406 units, 14,279 total, up 10.9 per cent

Kia may have stabilised a little after 2017’s explosive growth, but it’s still up 10.9 per cent this year.

The new Stinger adding 497 extra sales helps, but established cars on the rise include Rio (up 367 units, or 28.1 per cent), Picanto (up 359 units, or 43.5 per cent, enough to establish absolute dominance in the Micro Car segment) and Carnival (up 294 units, or 25 per cent, carrying on as the market’s #1 people-mover by a country mile).

For a little context, Kia is now regularly outselling Subaru and Volkswagen, which would have been unimaginable a few years ago.


Losers:

Holden: -4595 units, 15,524 total, down 22.8 per cent

Holden’s existence as a full-range importer complemented by Australian research and development isn’t off to a great start. Sales have fallen over from 20,119 during Q1 last year to 15,524 this year. It finished 10th in March, with market share below 5 per cent.

Furthermore, 12.7 per cent of its sales this year have been of defunct Australia-made stock in clearance, cars it cannot rely on for much longer. The figure for Toyota, which shut its local factory at about the same time, is 2.4 per cent.

The big disappointment is Equinox, which has managed 1075 sales this year, giving it market share of 2.4 per cent. The Mazda CX-5 has outsold in 6:1. Commodore sales have more than halved to 2598 units, and our sums suggest more are the VFII than the new one from Europe.

More here.

Land Rover: -932 units, 3016 total, down 23.6 per cent

Landie is still tracking along pretty well, averaging 1000 sales a month. But things have cooled this year, which is odd considering the growth in SUV sales.

The company’s top seller is the Discovery Sport, but it’s fallen 41 per cent to 865 units, placing it behind the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5.

Range Rover Sport has fallen 33 per cent to 692, and Evoque is down 60 per cent to 438, though Discovery is up and the new Velar has contributed 466 incremental sales.

Mazda: -713 units, 29,749 total, down 2.3 per cent

It’s hardly panic stations for Australia’s number two brand, though a slight dip within a growing market is clearly not what it wants.

The Mazda 3 has dipped slightly, down 739 units to 8916, while we’ve also seen modest dips from the Mazda 2, Mazda 6, BT-50 4×4 (that’s not ideal considering utes are booming) and the MX-5, as it enters its inevitable cooling-off phase.

On the plus side, CX-5 sales are up 631 units and it remains the nation’s #1 SUV. Plus, the new CX-8, and updated Mazda 6 with turbo engine, are both due this year and should provide a bump.

Jaguar: -303 units, 517 total, down 37 per cent

Also a tough start, like its Land Rover sister company. The fact F-Pace sales have more than halved to 209, while other crossover SUVs are booming, must be a worry. Luckily the smaller new E-Pace has added 148 units.

The XE sedan has fallen right away, clocking up 105 units, down 62 per cent, while the larger XF has managed to find only 29 buyers over Q1.

Fiat: -217 units, 538 total, down 28.7 per cent

The Fiat 500X is one of few small SUVs going backwards, managing a very disappointing 54 sales over Q1 compared to 235 over the same period in 2017. Abarth 124 convertible sales have also halved to 47 units, while the Fiat 500/Abarth 595 range has 203 sales, up 9 per cent.

On the commercial vehicle side, the Ducato is finding 70 buyers a month and tracking along steadily, but the Doblo has only found 25 buyers this year.


MORE: New car sales news coverage
MORE: VFACTS: March 2018 new vehicle sales

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