Finance Consumer Consumers turning their backs on car yards
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Consumers turning their backs on car yards

New car sales numbers are down, which bodes ill for the next lot of retail sales numbers. Photo: AAP
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New vehicle sales figures are published a month earlier than retail sales statistics and are proving an interesting indicator of consumer spending. That bodes ill for the next lot of retail sales numbers.

Continuing this financial year’s trend, October new vehicle sales were down again on the same month last year. Total sales were off 5.3 per cent – but private buyers dropped by 12 per cent.

And it was again the state with the biggest housing price fall headlines that led the way south. New South Wales sales were down 9.2 per cent on October 2017. That follows corresponding falls of 9.4, 4.1 and 9.6 per cent over the previous three months.

Yes, 2017 was a record year, but when the most populous state is down by an average of 8 per cent over four months, a message is being sent about the consumer’s willingness to splash out.

Within the mix of vehicles, passenger cars are heading inexorably towards endangered species status. According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, 27,802 cars found new homes – a plunge of 23.6 per cent on the same month last year.

SUVs continue to pick up much of the slack, accounting for 43.9 per cent of the market in October.

The FCAI seems to be putting its bravest face on the way this financial year has started, preferring to concentrate on the calendar year to date which is only off 1.3 per cent on the corresponding period.

“This demonstrates that the market is broadly holding firm, despite evolving consumer preferences demonstrated through the shift from passenger vehicles to SUVs,”  FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said.

“Given the slowing housing market and the current drought, the overall result demonstrates the resilience of Australia’s competitive automotive market.”

As far as models go, utes remain tops. Toyota’s Hi-Lux sales jumped 15.5 per cent on the previous corresponding period to 4,401 sales last month, while the Ford Ranger again took second place with 3,511 units, up 14.2 per cent.

Toyota dominated the weakened market with a 19.6 per cent share in October, comfortably more than double second-placed Mazda’s 9 per cent.