VFACTS May 2023: Record new-car sales result masks slowdown in showroom traffic

The Australian automotive sector reported record sales last month as orders placed last year were finally filled. However, dealers say showroom traffic has slowed dramatically in the wake of interest rate rises.

A record number of motor vehicles were reported as sold in Australia last month as large shipments of pre-existing customer orders finally arrived – but the number of new-car enquiries has hit the brakes following record interest rate rises, say dealers on the front line.

Official data released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries shows 105,694 new cars were reported as sold in May 2023 – a 12 per cent rise compared to the same month last year, and a 2.7 per cent increase since the previous May record set in 2017.

The surge is a result of dealers filling orders placed months ago – and in some cases years ago – rather than a spike in new deals being signed.

“The data has never been further from what’s happening in the market right now,” a leading multi-franchise metropolitan dealer told Drive on condition of anonymity, as he is not permitted to speak on behalf of the car brands he sells.

“There is always a lag between what the data shows and what’s happening in showrooms, but this is the biggest gap I can recall … a May record when the actual number of enquiries has fallen off a cliff.”

The May 2023 result marks the 11th month in a row of year-on-year growth – and the industry has stayed in positive territory despite 11 interest rate rises in the past 12 months – largely due to a massive backlog of orders.

“This result is a signal that we are starting to see some improvement in supply,” Tony Weber, the CEO of the FCAI, the industry lobby group which collates the data, said in a media statement.

“However, not all issues are resolved, and our members (car companies) continue to work with their customers to improve vehicle delivery times.”

The automotive industry executive urged caution “around broader economic conditions and their potential impact on (new-car) demand”.

“A large proportion of vehicles delivered this month would have been ordered during 2022,” Mr Weber said in a media statement. “Since then, we have seen a shift in economic conditions with a focus on rising cost pressures for households and businesses.”

Japanese car giant Toyota – which has been market leader in Australia for the past 20 years in a row – posted another sales decline as it struggles to fill backorders due to production interruptions and shipping bottlenecks.

However, Toyota still comfortably holds top spot – with more than double the sales of second-placed Mazda – while it quotes customer wait times of six months to two years for some of its most popular models such as the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Camry and Toyota HiAce van.

The top-selling vehicle in Australia for the past seven years in a row – the Toyota HiLux ute – reclaimed the sales lead for the month and year-to-date.

The Ford Ranger ute had been the top-selling vehicle year-to-date from January to April 2023. It was the longest losing streak for the Toyota HiLux in the year-to-date tally since the two began doing battle at the top of the sales charts in 2015.

But last month was a May record for the Toyota HiLux and the nameplate’s seventh-best monthly tally.

It means the Toyota HiLux is now back at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the Ford Ranger – albeit by a slim margin – in what is shaping up as the closest battle yet between the two in the annual sales race.

The Tesla Model Y electric car ranked third outright in May 2023 – ahead of the Toyota RAV4 – for the second time since September 2022. It was also the fifth time the Tesla Model Y ranked inside the Top 10 since it arrived in Australia in August 2022.

In other upsets, Hyundai outsold its South Korean sibling brand Kia for the first time since July 2022 – after being overtaken by Kia last calendar year – as a large shipment of Hyundai i30 sedans and hatches arrived. This result saw the Hyundai i30 return to the Top 10 for the second month in a row.

Kia was close behind Hyundai with a suspiciously neat 7000 vehicles reported as sold in May 2023. 

Contrary to perception, sales data provided by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is based on information supplied voluntarily by car companies rather than sourcing registration figures from states and territories.

Chinese car maker MG ranked sixth in May 2023 – its highest result to date – behind US car giant Ford and Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Electric-car specialist Tesla ranked eighth ahead of Volkswagen – which, despite its rhetoric, is yet to release an electric car in Australia.

Volkswagen Australia posted a sales surge in May 2023 (up 77.8 per cent), driven by bulk deliveries of the T-Roc and Tiguan SUVs and its new Amarok ute.

Isuzu Ute and China’s GWM Haval (formerly known as Great Wall Motors) finished just outside the Top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.

Former Top 10 mainstays – Nissan and Honda – had another shocker and appear to be among the first victims of the rise in sales of Chinese car brands.

Nissan ranked 13th and Honda finished in 25th place in May 2023. Both cited stock shortages as the reason behind their poor sales results, however the rest of the automotive industry is struggling with the same constraints.

Dealers representing both brands fear Nissan and Honda may not return to the Top 10 unless there is a drastic improvement.

In other highlights, four of the Top 10 vehicles sold in May 2023 were utes: Toyota HiLux (1st), Ford Ranger (2nd), Isuzu D-Max (6th) and Mazda BT-50 (10th). It is believed to be the first Top 10 appearance in Australia for the Mazda BT-50 in the history of the nameplate.

Toyota’s luxury division Lexus reported an all-time record sales month in May 2023 – which delivered its highest year-to-date tally since the brand was established locally in 33 years (since May 1990).

The pint-sized Suzuki Jimny continued to shatter records, with 748 examples reported as sold – an increase of 11 per cent compared to the previous monthly record set in September 2022 (674) – as orders for the three-door automatic remain on hold until the backlog is cleared.

And US pick-up specialist Ram outsold stablemate Jeep for the ninth month in a row, as Australians continue to treat themselves to a record number of recreational vehicles.

Data below supplied by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), and compiled by Alex Misoyannis.

Note: The FCAI has reshuffled some of its categories for the new year, increasing the price limits, adding a new category (utes above $100,000), and moving some vehicles to different categories as their prices have risen (such as the Volkswagen Golf and Subaru WRX, which were previously in the small car under $40,000 category).

TOP 10 CARS IN May 2023

RankModelVolume May 2023Change year-on-year1Toyota HiLux5772up 11.5 per cent2Ford Ranger4110down 9.6 per cent3Tesla Model Y3178N/A4Toyota RAV42616down 33.4 per cent5MG ZS2502up 42.3 per cent6Isuzu D-Max2371down 2.6 per cent7Hyundai i302163up 6.7 per cent8Hyundai Tucson1911up 11.7 per cent9Mitsubishi Outlander1880up 4.5 per cent10Mazda BT-501788down 94.6 per cent


RankBrandVolume May 2023Change year-on-year1Toyota18,340down 19.6 per cent2Mazda8475up 30.9 per cent3Hyundai7078up 0.2 per cent4Kia7000down 4.2 per cent5Ford6251up 19.5 per cent6MG4828up 18.8 per cent7Mitsubishi4583down 24.7 per cent8Tesla4476up 37,300 per cent9Volkswagen3940up 77.8 per cent10Subaru3564down 1.7 per cent

Passenger cars: Top Three in each segment in May 2023

MicroKia Picanto (637)Fiat/Abarth 500 (59)Mitsubishi Mirage (0)Light < $30kMG 3 (1508)Suzuki Swift (579)Kia Rio (530)Light > $30kMini Hatch (198)Audi A1 (47)Skoda Fabia (35)Small < $40kHyundai i30 (2163)Toyota Corolla (1386)Mazda 3 (779)Small > $40kMercedes-Benz A-Class, Subaru WRX (211)Audi A3 (207)Volkswagen Golf (189)Medium < $60kToyota Camry (864)Mazda 6 (149)Skoda Octavia (131)Medium > $60kTesla Model 3 (1298)BMW 3 Series (405)Mercedes-Benz C-Class (330)Large < $70kKia Stinger (317)Skoda Superb (20)Citroen C5 X (7)Large > $70kMercedes-Benz EQE (65)Mercedes-Benz E-Class (48)Porsche Taycan (42)Upper Large < $100kChrysler 300 (0)Upper Large > $100kPorsche Panamera (14)BMW 7 Series/i7 (12)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (7)People MoversKia Carnival (862)Hyundai Staria (106)Volkswagen Multivan (53)Sports < $80kFord Mustang (309)BMW 2 Series coupe/convertible (171)Subaru BRZ (135)Sports > $80kMercedes-Benz C-Class coupe/convertible (92)BMW 4 Series coupe/convertible (75)Porsche 718 Boxster/Cayman (50)Sports > $200kPorsche 911 (64)Ferrari sports cars (25)Bentley sports cars (18)

SUVs: Top Three in each segment in May 2023

Light SUVMazda CX-3 (1203)Kia Stonic (873)Suzuki Jimny (748)Small SUV < $45kMG ZS (2502)Mazda CX-30 (1169)Kia Seltos (1148)Small SUV > $45kVolvo XC40 (619)Audi Q3 (450)BMW X1 (441)Medium SUV < $60kToyota RAV4 (2616)Hyundai Tucson (1911)Mitsubishi Outlander (1880)Medium SUV > $60kTesla Model Y (3178)Lexus NX (549)Audi Q5 (451)Large SUV < $70kToyota Prado (1435)Isuzu MU-X (1110)Ford Everest (812)Large SUV > $70kLexus RX (489)Land Rover Defender (471)Mercedes-Benz GLE (405)Upper Large SUV < $120kToyota LandCruiser wagon (1364)Nissan Patrol wagon (501)Land Rover Discovery (56)Upper Large SUV > $120kLexus LX (120)Range Rover (107)Mercedes-Benz GLS (95)

Utes and vans: Top Three in each segment in May 2023

Vans < 2.5tPeugeot Partner (100)Volkswagen Caddy (20)Renault Kangoo (1)Vans 2.5t-3.5tToyota HiAce van (1073)Ford Transit Custom (403)LDV G10/G10+ (393)4×2 UtesToyota HiLux (997)Ford Ranger (446)Isuzu D-Max (438)4×4 Utes < $100kToyota HiLux (4775)Ford Ranger (3664)Isuzu D-Max (1933)Utes > $100kRam 1500 (696)Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (230)Chevrolet Silverado HD (84)

The post VFACTS May 2023: Record new-car sales result masks slowdown in showroom traffic appeared first on Drive.

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