NEW car sales got off to a flying start in 2013, thanks to the sustained popularity of SUVs. The market is up 11.3% on January 2012, setting up another potential record year of new car sales.
For the first time, passenger cars now make up less than half of the total market, according to the figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries on Tuesday. In contrast, SUV sales continue to grow with the high-riding vehicles now making up more than 30% of all new vehicle sales.
Highlighting the decline of passenger cars, particularly medium and large sedans and wagons, and the rise of SUVs was the relative performance of Holden and Ford's offerings in those segments.
Sales of the once-dominant Holden Commodore slumped to a record low of 1656, while the company's Captiva 5 and 7 SUVs were the most popular in the market, with 2155 sales.
The success of the Captiva strengthens the possibility that it will replace the Commodore as the second locally built Holden later this decade.
Holden boss Mike Devereux has repeatedly stated that both locally produced cars must be top-10 sellers and be built on global platforms (underpinnings) to make them viable for export.
Ford has also had to deal with mixed fortunes in passenger and SUV sales. Sales of the Falcon continue to slide - an all-time low of 778 sedans were sold in January - but the Territory SUV was the only locally made vehicle to record growth in January, with sales up 45%.
The SUV surge is being led by small and medium-sized SUVs, which make up more than half the top 10. Strong performers for the month included the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai ix35 and Nissan X-Trail.
But it is a worrying situation for the local car industry which, with the exception of the Holden Cruze and Territory, build medium and large sedans. Sales of Australian-made cars were down 28.4% on January 2012.
Toyota sold 13,375 vehicles in January to top the sales charts ahead of Mazda (8912) and Holden (8811).
The Mazda3 was the nation's most popular vehicle, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Toyota HiLux .
Best-selling SUVs in January
1. Holden Captiva - 2155
2. Mazda CX-5 - 1625
3. Hyundai ix35 - 1301
4. Nissan X-Trail - 1294
5. Subaru Forester - 1246
6. Ford Territory - 1161
7. Honda CR-V - 1117
8. Toyota Prado - 1048
9. Nissan Dualis - 1033
10. Toyota Kluger - 960