April new-car sales down by 48.5 per cent, sharpest decline since records were kept

Australian new-car sales halved in April amid COVID-19 lockdowns, but the market was not hit as hard as most other countries.

April new-car sales fell to their lowest level in more than 30 years – and recorded the sharpest month-to-month decline since records were kept – as the nation went into lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis.

However, the decline of 48.5 per cent – to 38,926 vehicles reported as sold versus 75,550 for the same month last year – was not as dramatic as most other countries, which posted sales slides of between 80 and 98 per cent.

The figures show this is the lowest April new-car sales result in Australia since records were kept from 1991 – and the fifth-lowest month outright over the same period.

The only time Australians bought fewer cars than they did in April 2020 were in each January from 1991 to 1994, when between 33,455 and 36,380 vehicles were reported as sold in an annual new-car market of about 550,000 vehicles – half the size it is today.

Demonstrating that consumers gravitate to brands they trust in times of crisis, Japanese car giant Toyota – market leader in Australia for the past 17 years in a row – accounted for one in four of all new vehicles sold in April.

Toyota’s market share of 26.5 per cent is believed to be an all-time high for the brand, as it accounted for six of the Top 10 vehicles sold for the first time in its history in Australia.

The Toyota HiLux ute and Toyota RAV4 SUV were the top two sellers for the month, displacing the Ford Ranger ute to third place.

The Toyota Corolla small car, Toyota Prado 4WD and Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series filled fourth, fifth and sixth places on the sales charts, ahead of the Kia Cerato small car, Holden Colorado ute, and the Hyundai i30 hatchback.

The Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series utility and workhorse range rounded out the Top 10.

In other upsets, Kia overtook its sibling Hyundai for the second time ever to rank in third place outright for the first time – ahead of Ford.

German car maker BMW made it into the Top 10 for the first time ever, ranking seventh ahead of Holden, Nissan and Volkswagen – after being among the few brands posting only a modest sales slide.

Other luxury marques had mixed results: Audi and Mercedes sales slowed at a greater rate than the rest of the market.

The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Tony Weber, said although there was a dramatic decline in April, Australian new-car sales performed relatively well compared to most other major markets because showrooms were allowed to remain open as long as social distancing measures were in place.

“I think we have performed relatively well versus most other countries and this gives us some optimism that we can drive out of this,”said Mr Weber.

“I’m hopeful the worst is behind us … but the early signs are good. Anecdotally, we’ve seen an increase in sales enquiries in the second half of April versus the first half of April, and we’re hoping that trend continues.”

Mr Weber said the Federal Government’s Job Keeper and Job Seeker packages were helping the economy, but he was concerned some new-car dealerships may fall outside the criteria for assistance, because of their high turnover but slim profit margins.

Mr Weber also backed the call today by the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) to extend the $150,000 instant asset write-off because most buyers were not able to take advantage of the tax incentive last month.

However, for now it remains unclear if the Federal Government will respond to the request for a six-month or 12-month extension of the $150,000 instant asset write-off.

The car industry says solving the health crisis is critical to the market’s recovery.

“The quicker we can address the public health issues, the quicker the economy is allowed to respond … and allow us to move back to the new normal sooner rather than later,” said Mr Weber.

Top 10 car brands in April 2020

Toyota 10,325, down 31.8 per cent

Mazda 3022, down 60.5 per cent

Kia 2492, down 44.9 per cent

Ford 2251, down 53.1 per cent

Hyundai 2247, down 65.3 per cent

Mitsubishi 1734, down 63.2 per cent

BMW 1703, down 5.7 per cent

Holden 1501, down 56.9 per cent

Nissan 1468, down 51.5 per cent

Volkswagen 1328, down 62.1 per cent

Subaru 1282, down 57.4 per cent

Top 10 cars sold in April 2020

Toyota HiLux 2339, down 35.4 per cent

Toyota RAV4 1911, up 54.4 per cent

Ford Ranger 1540, dowse 48.8 per cent

Toyota Corolla 1195, down 50.8 per cent

Toyota Prado 947, down 35.7 per cent

Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, down 924 per cent

Kia Cerato 860, down 47.9 per cent

Holden Colorado 854, down 31.7 per cent

Hyundai i30 695, down 63.6 per cent

Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series 679, down 20.8 per cent

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries

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