With a COVID vaccine on the horizon and two strong months of sales under their belt, automakers are expecting new car sales to bounce back strongly in 2021.

    There were 916,968 new cars sold in Australia during 2020, down almost 14 per cent from the 1,062,867 sold in 2019. It’s the first time since 2007 the sales count hasn’t ticked over one million.

    However, with Victoria out of lockdown and COVID outbreaks under control around the nation, the last two months of 2020 saw sales growth compared to the year before.

    The prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine has the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak body for carmakers in Australia, confident 2021 will once again see more than a million new car sales.

    “All the indications are pretty strong,” said Tony Weber, FCAI chief executive.

    “October was down 1.5 per cent and then we’ve had growth in the last two months of 12.4 and 13.5 per cent [respectively]… the trend is looking good.

    “We think there’s great hope with the vaccine. Get COVID under control, address the health issues. The economy will turn around, the fundamentals are good,” he said.

    “We’re optimistic it’ll bounce back, the market, as the economy will. I think it’ll be certainly north of where we are now, and most probably a million again, where it should be.”

    Although the pandemic is currently under some semblance of control in Australia, there’s no clear indication of when international borders will reopen.

    As a result, some of the $26 billion spent every year by Australians on overseas travel is expected to instead fund new car purchases.

    Sales of the Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol were strong in 2020, as families that previously would have holidayed abroad instead preparing to enjoy their own backyard.

    “Australians are obviously touring more at home this year,” Nissan Australia said in December, on the back of best-ever monthly sales figures for the latest Y62 Patrol, “and what better way to tow a boat or caravan”.

    Independent analysis firm IHS Markit data gives further cause for optimism. IHS figures quoted by the FCAI point to sales growth in 2021, although Australia isn’t expected to spring back as quickly as Europe and the USA.

    “It’s looking like we’re on the road to recovery,” Tony Weber said.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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