The nation’s car yards have fired a distress flare about consumer confidence: new vehicle sales crashed in December.
National sales were down 14.9 per cent from the same month last year. Leading the falls, New South Wales plunged 19.7 per cent. Victoria dropped 17.9 per cent.
As The New Daily has been reporting, the suggested correlation between housing prices and vehicle sales has been holding true since the start of this financial year.
The NSW scorecard for new vehicle sales over the past six months compared with the previous corresponding month is -9.4, -4.1, -9.6, -9.2, -11.6 and -19.7 per cent.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) releases its vehicle sales figures a month earlier than retails sales statistics. The series of weakening FCAI numbers has tended to be followed by soft numbers for the shops.
There are no official retail stats until early February, but there’s been a conspicuous absence of retailers talking up the success of their holiday sales.
Purchases by private buyers nationally were down by 12 per cent in October, 11.3 in November and 14 per cent in December, though a change in the trend last month was that business purchases fell by more – 16.7 per cent.
FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said new vehicle sales reflect “a challenging climate across the Australian economy including a slowing housing market, tightening of money lending and the drought”.
Vehicle sales were marginally ahead for the first half of the calendar year, leaving total 2018 sales down only three per cent. The contraction since July 1 has been surprisingly sharp, promising a weak financial year.
The worsening trends in vehicle sales have largely escaped the attention of mainstream media, but the latest figures are the stuff of January headlines. December 2017 sales of 102,820 units falling to 87,528 last month can’t be ignored and will be fodder for those commentators predicting the Reserve Bank’s next interest rate move will be down, rather than up.
With real take-home wages going backwards for six years, concern about the housing market’s impact on consumer confidence and the uncertainty that election campaigns tend to spread – it looks like Scott Morrison won’t have the strong consumption story he wants to take to the polls.
Beyond the overall figures, 2018 will go down as the year of the demise of the passenger car and the rise and rise of SUVs and light commercials.
While total new vehicle sales were off 3 per cent for the calendar year, passenger cars plunged 15.9 per cent. SUV sales were up 6.4 per cent and light commercials firmed 0.6 per cent.
New SUV sales for 2018 outnumbered passenger cars by 495,300 to 378,413. There were 237,972 light commercials sold with the Toyota HiLux again the top selling vehicle across all categories on 51,705 units, followed by the Ford Ranger on 42,144. The minor placings went to the Toyota Corolla (35,320), Mazda 3 (31,065) and Hyundai i30 (28,188).
And 2018 was the year Holden fell out of the top five marques, finishing in sixth place with 5.3 per cent market share behind Toyota (18.8), Mazda (9.7), Hyundai (8.2), Mitsubishi (7.4) and Ford (6.0). In 2017, Holden was fourth.
There were just 19 Australian-made cars sold last year, the last of the Holdens.
The biggest source of vehicles was Japan – 356,230 units – followed by Thailand – 300,274. Thailand has done well out its free trade agreement with Australia and specialising in light commercials.
Our roads increasingly are as Australian as meat pies, kangaroos and Thai utes.