VFACTS: New Car Sales Hit Snag in March

After eight successive months of growth in car sales across Australia, March saw a drop in numbers compared to last year, according to new VFACTS data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

97,251 new vehicles were registered as sold last month, which, although comfortably the highest-selling month this year so far, represents a decrease of 3.9% compared to the 101,233 units sold across March 2022.

Vehicle sales growth had stalled slightly in February, which saw only a 1.8% increase across the month compared to January (+11.9%), in large part down to growing biosecurity delays and other ongoing factors such as rising interest rates and cost of living pressures.

The big winner across the month was the green car market, with plug-in hybrid sales growing by 33.3% and battery electric vehicles up by 19.5% on March 2022’s numbers. Notably, however, there were no passenger vehicles which reached the top ten best-sellers for last month, with the top three being occupied by utes and the remainder comprised of SUVs.

Passenger vehicle sales as a whole were down by 21.9% compared to last year, as were light commercial vehicles (-9.0%). As a result, passenger vehicles’ market share fell to 17.7% across the month, while the light commercial vehicle segment sits at 22.6% of total sales.

SUVs once again flexed their muscles, accounting for over 55% of the total market share and experiencing a 5.2% increase on March 2022’s figures. Heavy commercial vehicles also saw growth across the month, with 9.3% more units sold this month than in the corresponding period last year. This sees them expand their market share to 4.7%.

It was once again a mixed bag for sales across the states and territories, as Queensland was the biggest winner with 22,244 (+4.9%) alongside South Australia (6,543, +2.6%). However, Victoria (24,107, -11.2%) and the Northern Territory (776, -15.3%) were the biggest movers in the opposite direction, with New South Wales and Tasmania also among them.

Market sales: March 2023

CategoryMarch sales% change vs 2022Market share %
Light commercial22,012-9.022.6
Heavy commercial4,5319.34.7
Source: VFACTS, March 2023

Vehicle sales by state or territory: March 2023

State/territoryMarch sales% change vs 2022
New South Wales30,256-6.1
Western Australia10,1291.1
South Australia6,5432.6
Australian Capital Territory1,5761.0
Northern Territory776-15.3
Source: VFACTS, March 2023

Vehicle brands: March

Despite leading the pack once again in March, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Toyota. The Japanese giant has been heavily affected by delays, leading to a drop of 39.4% compared to the sales recorded over the same period last year. The 13,223 vehicles sold last month are well behind the 21,828 registered in March 2022, while their year-to-date (YTD) total of 40,918 pales in comparison to the 58,047 last year.

Mazda finished second once again for best-selling vehicle brands despite being similarly hampered by delays, with the 8,243 vehicles registered as sold representing a 26.7% decrease. However, third-placed Ford’s 6,485 was up 52.8% on last year’s numbers, pipping Kia (6,403, +5.8%) to a podium finish yet again after having done so by just 22 units last month.

Mitsubishi replaced Hyundai in the top five for the month, with the Japanese manufacturer outselling the South Korean make despite both experiencing notable drops compared to last year (-34.9% and -17.6%, respectively).

Inside the top ten, Subaru enjoyed significant growth of 69.0%, while it was a strong showing from Isuzu Ute (+37.1%). Tesla’s numbers are now able to be compared to the previous year for the first time, with March’s numbers representing growth of 15.5%.

Chinese manufacturer GWM enjoyed the biggest growth of the top sellers, continuing its strong start to the year to sit 13th with 3,338 vehicles sold, which is 268.0% greater than at the same stage last year. BMW’s sales were also up by 56.7%.

Best-selling vehicle brands: March 2023

BrandMarch sales% change vs 2022
Isuzu Ute4,53437.1
Source: VFACTS, March 2023

Best-selling vehicle brands: YTD 2023

Brand2023 sales% change vs 2022
Isuzu Ute10,36117.7
Source: VFACTS, March 2023

Vehicle models: March

For the first time this year, Toyota HiLux has claimed top spot on the best sellers list for individual models, edging past the winner of the last two months, the Ford Ranger, by just 75 vehicles (4,583 compared to 4,508). However, this is still a significant drop for the HiLux, which sold 27.5% more last March when it eclipsed 6,300 in total.

The Ranger, meanwhile, is up 52.3% on last year’s sales and remains out in front in YTD numbers. The two powerhouse utes were joined in the top three by a third, the Isuzu Ute D-Max, which racked up 2,789 units sold to claim bronze. The D-Max was also 14.0% ahead of its sales from the corresponding period last year.

Rounding out the top five were the Mitsubishi Outlander, which enjoyed growth of 34.0% (2,169), and the Tesla Model Y (1,938), whose numbers from last March are unavailable and pipped the Mazda CX-5 by just 21 vehicles. The Model Y also overtook the Model 3, which performed strongly over the first two months of the year to sit in the top three best sellers in each.

The CX-5 was one of the big sliders across the month, experiencing a drop of 49.2% compared to March 2022. The RAV4 also slid further into ninth overall and experienced a drop of 61.4%, which follows the 52.4% decrease it saw in February. However, there were a couple of models which more than doubled their output compared to last year, with the Subaru Forester enjoying a 162.3% boost and the MU-X rising into the top ten off the back of a 103.1% improvement in sales to make it two models in the top ten for Isuzu Ute.

Best-selling vehicle models: March 2023

ModelMarch sales% change vs 2022
Toyota HiLux4,583-27.5
Ford Ranger4,50852.3
Isuzu Ute D-Max2,78914.0
Mitsubishi Outlander2,16934.0
Tesla Model Y1,938N/A
Mazda CX-51,917-49.2
Subaru Forester1,881162.3
MG ZS1,8445.0
Toyota RAV41,778-61.4
Isuzu MU-X1,745103.1
Source: VFACTS, March 2023


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