New-car sales on brakes for the sixth month in a row
THE next few months are shaping up as a good time to drive a bargain - official figures show new-car sales hit the brakes for the sixth month in a row in September.
The slowdown means dealers are overstocked as they head into the quietest months on the calendar and trying to clear end-of-year models.
September's downturn of 5.5 per cent over the same month last year - to 94,711 reported sales - doesn't tell the full story. Dealers claim the figures are inflated and the real position is much worse.
One major metropolitan dealer says "there was a mad scramble" in the last days of the month to report cars as sold.
"My phone was ringing off the hook with (several brands) pushing cars down my neck," he says.
"I couldn't take as many as they wanted but I know other dealers who did. The (official) figures are a complete distortion of what's happening in the market. It's actually much worse."
Sales figures published by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries are based on information provided by dealers and car companies, not on actual registrations.
That means a car company can count the sale without the dealer registering the vehicle or selling it to a paying customer.
Industry insiders say anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent of vehicles in a given month are "cyber cars", a term given to vehicles counted as sold on a computer but not in the real world.
"The market is flat, we're not getting the inquiry we normally do at this time of year, everyone's feeling it," said another leading multi-franchise dealer.
"(The brands we sell) are off 20 to 40 per cent on the same month last year, not the 5 per cent that the industry would have you believe," the veteran car dealer said.
In defence of the way car sales figures are tallied, the FCAI says vehicles are not counted twice.
However, "cyber cars" already counted as sold can sit in stock for months and, in some cases, carry into the following year.
Toyota and Hyundai sales remained steady but half of the top 10 brands posted significant declines. Ford sales declined by 25 per cent and Holden has dropped 32 per cent, to take ninth place.
Our love affair with utes remains strong, with the Toyota HiLux extending its lead over the Ford Ranger. The Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton also made it into the Top 10.
Passenger car sales continued to slide in favour of SUVs, with the Toyota Corolla down 4.5 per cent and former favourite the Mazda3 down by 33.6 per cent.
Luxury brands still faced a headwind, with Land Rover down 31 per cent, Mercedes down 24 per cent, Audi off by 11 per cent, Lexus down by 5 per cent and BMW dipping 2.5 per cent.
Buoyed by new models and bucking the trend, Volvo more than doubled sales in September compared to the same month last year.
The FCAI says the overall decline in the market was led by falls in sales to private buyers (down 15.8 per cent) and government fleets (down 2.6 per cent).
Business fleet purchases remained relatively flat, up by 0.3 per cent.
Tony Weber, the Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said: "What we are seeing is a slightly slowing market, after the industry has produced five years of record sales over the past six years".
"After a record 2017, year to date sales in 2018 are sitting just 0.9 per cent below last year's numbers. This demonstrates the inherent strength of the market. The decline in passenger vehicle sales and corresponding growth in SUVs also shows that the traditional family car continues to evolve in Australia."
Top 10 brands in September 2018
Toyota 17,386, up 0.1
Hyundai 8110, down 0.2
Mitsubishi 7622, up 7.9
Mazda 7070, down 31.5
Nissan 5167, up 29.1
Ford 5084, down 25.7
Subaru 4758, up 2.5
Volkswagen 4694, down 4.2
Holden 4651, down 32.4
Honda 4528, up 3.1
Top 10 cars in September 2018
Toyota HiLux 4338
Ford Ranger 3228
Toyota Corolla 2917
Hyundai i30 2508
Mitsubishi ASX 2138
Nissan X-Trail 1908
Mitsubishi Triton 1857
Nissan Navara 1713
Toyota RAV4 1611
Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling