The recovery in the new car market continues to show signs of improvement, shaking off a historic 31-month decline to see February result in the fourth consecutive month of sales growth.
Looking back, it seems somewhat inconceivable that it would be Australia’s progress out of the recession that would mark a turnaround in sentiment. It’s also worth noting, the year-on-year comparisons against the most-impacted months amid COVID have yet to arrive, so the market’s ‘hot’ streak could very well continue for some months yet.
Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) CEO Tony Weber has backed up this notion, stating “we remain confident that this trend of growth will continue in an environment where business operating conditions continue to normalise”.
Total new car sales
In terms of specific numbers, February saw a 5.1% increase in new car sales, with a total of 83,977 units registered across the month. Stock shortages and production delays have been hampering sales, even leading to price increases for certain new car models.
There is much to like about the recent rebound, however, it’s also worth noting that the February result is 6.4% lower than the rolling average for that month over the last five years.
More broadly, the positive result was reflected across all states and territories bar Victoria, where sales slumped 8.7% amid a snap lockdown that impacted dealers, as well as Tasmania, down 3.9%, and the ACT, down 38.3% off a low base.
Looking at year-to-date sales figures, there have been 163,643 vehicles reported as sold up until the end of February. This is 7.9% higher than the first two months of last year.
New car sales by segment
SUV sales as a proportion of the whole market were down slightly compared with January, coming in at 50.8%, however, it wasn’t passenger vehicles making up the difference. Instead, the prominence of light commercial vehicles grew.
While one might assume this could be a sign of improving business confidence as Australia’s economic recovery fares as one of the best in the world, it is interesting to note that business purchasers were down about 4% compared with February 2020. Similarly, government buying activity fell 13.8%.
In their place, private buyers stepped up, with sales registered to these buyers increasing 15.8% year-on-year. From this we can assume that many new car buyers are being increasingly drawn to the versatility and practicality of utes, even as the family car or day-to-day drive.
Hybrids remain the primary driver of sales in the electrified vehicles category, with all sales across all sub-categories rising by 6% to 5,483 units.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our review into new car sales for February 2021, covering vehicle makes and models.