February 2020 New Car Sales Review - Part 1

The new car industry has already been battling a series of headwinds, both of local and international nature, however, the latter part of February introduced a new macro risk to not only Australia, but the wider world.

The Coronavirus pandemic has escalated into an unprecedented health crisis, and while its effect wasn’t particularly felt on the new car sales results from February, the months ahead will be challenging as the economy is left reeling.

Commenting on February’s results, Tony Weber, Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said, “The Australian new vehicle market has now seen a downturn each month for the past 23 months. In economic terms, a recession is declared after two quarters of negative growth – and this industry has now seen seven consecutive quarters of negative growth. There is no doubt that this is an extraordinarily difficult time for the automotive industry – a situation sadly underlined by the recent announcement of Holden’s withdrawal from the Australian market”.

 

Total new car sales

With car sales slumping yet again, the industry recorded its 23rd consecutive month where there were fewer sales than the corresponding month from the year prior. In this instance, February saw new car sales dive by 10.3% over the same month in 2019, leading to a total of 79,940 sales.

This result comes despite the extra day this year arising from the leap year. The industry is witnessing its worst results since the Global Financial Crisis, yet, as alluded to earlier, things are not going to look any more promising in the near term on account of macro headwinds caused by the Coronavirus.

In terms of geographic results, the ACT was the only region to post an increase in sales, with car registrations up 1.6% to a lowly 780 sales. What is more concerning for everyone is the drastic conditions hanging over other east coast cities, with NSW sales down 11.8% to 3,156 units, Victoria sales falling 11.5% to 2,108 units, and Queensland sales sinking 10.6% to 1,472 units.

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New car sales by segment

In terms of sales by segment, 39,304 units were Sports Utility Vehicles, which represented 49.2% of the entire market. There were 15,523 sales of Light Commercial Vehicles (19.4% of the market) and 22,648 sales of Passenger Vehicles (28.3% of the market).

Leading vehicle segments by market share included: Medium SUVs (20.2%), Small Cars (15.7%), 4x4 utes (14.6%), Small SUVs (12.6%) and Large SUVs (11.6%). Collectively, this was approximately 78.7% of all new car sales.

Sales to private buyers declined 11.8% to 37,348 units, business sales slumped 9.4% to 32,318 units, and sales to rental agencies were lower by 2.7% to 5,067 units.

Hybrid vehicles once again proved to be a bright spot for dealers, with the segment seeing registrations increase by 70% to 4,929 units, led largely by Toyota and Lexus. Last but not least, Japan (26,279 units) and Thailand (19,291) remain the leading sources of vehicles being sold in Australia, while Korea (11,074), Germany (5,783), US (3,158), England (2,131), and China (2,012) round out the other major players.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our review into new car sales for February 2020, covering vehicle makes and models.

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