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August 2021 New Car Sales Review - Part 1

Lockdowns and supply issues remain a constraining force for the market, despite headline numbers suggesting the car industry is in a better place than it may actually be.

Many of the sales being recorded now are from orders placed a long time back, which is distorting the picture somewhat. As a more accurate indicator, dealerships have seen a slowdown in leads and orders throughout August, and with lockdowns persisting, and shortages still in effect, this isn’t expected to pick up for some time.

Total new car sales

Across August, there were 81,199 new car sales throughout the month, an improvement of 33% against the same month last year. While at first glance the number might seem like a positive, it is more so a case of last year’s pandemic-affected numbers being significantly below-average. 

If we look at the pre-pandemic numbers, new car deliveries were actually down 12.3% compared with the five-year average before COVID-19. What’s more, beyond last year’s number, the 2021 result for August was also the lowest for the month since 2009, when the country was facing its last major economic hurdle in the Global Financial Crisis.

Year-to-date, the new car sales market is 27% ahead of last year, and if the momentum continues, the market will return to the 1,000,000 sales mark. For now, however, it was the tenth month in a row where new car sales have managed to post a year-on-year increase, which is one positive that we can take away, even if things may get tougher from here on in. The move also came despite sales actually decreasing in the nation’s largest car market, New South Wales, with lockdown having a profound impact despite click-and-collect operations in place.

Screenshot 2021-09-16 12.48.59

New car sales by segment

SUVs retained a majority share of the new car market, with 40,981 units registered as sold last month. Light commercial units totalled 19,236 sales, while passenger vehicles came in at 17,339 units. In terms of the top segments by market share, medium-size SUVs were the largest sector at 18%. After that, others included: 4x4 utes (18%); large SUVs (14.4%); small SUVs (12.7%); small cars (11.7%).

Private buyers were the biggest catalyst for sales growth last month, recording 42,013 sales, which was 34.7% higher than a year ago. Meanwhile, sales to business fleets rose 19.1% to 28,452 units, and cars registered to rental fleets soared 267.8%, albeit to a modest total of 4,542 units. Government fleets bought 2,549 new cars, up 24.7%.

Hybrid vehicle sales were up just 0.9%, with growth beginning to show signs of slowing, and sales for EVs and PHEVs is still coming off a very low base. Finally, sales of vehicles from China continue to make strong ground, and for the 12th successive month they outsold those from the US.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our review into new car sales for August 2021, covering vehicle makes and models.

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