New car sales in Australia totalled 916,968 during 2020, making it the lowest annual tally since 2003. It’s also the first time the market failed to top one million units since 2009.

    VFACTS data submitted by car brands showed a year-on-year sales decline of 13.7 per cent during 2020 – as the economy tipped into recession, and experienced a record quarterly GDP decline, largely on the back of COVID-19 restrictions.

    But there’s reason for optimism, with market-wide sales growing by 12.4 per cent during November and 13.5 per cent in December. These were the first two positive-growth months in more than two-and-a-half years, indicating some of the market’s issues pre-dated COVID.

    “We are optimistic that it’ll bounce back, as the economy will,” Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber told us today.

    “I think it’ll be north of where it is now [in 2021], and most probably over a million [units] again – where it should be.”

    To give the market a broad breakdown: SUVs achieved a record 49.6 per cent total market share in 2020 (up 4.1 percentage points), while conventional passenger cars (sedans, wagons, hatches, coupes, convertibles, and MPVs) managed 24.2 per cent share (down 5.5 percentage points).

    Light commercial vehicles achieved 22.4 per cent total market share, up 1.2 percentage points.


    Toyota was clear market leader for the 18th year in succession. It sold 204,801 vehicles, down just 0.5 per cent over its 2019 haul. As such, its market share spiked to 22.3 per cent, its best figure since 2008.

    Toyota also sold the market’s top-selling SUV (RAV4), light commercial (HiLux), and passenger car (Corolla). More than a quarter of its total (54,335) were petrol-electric hybrid cars.

    Mazda finished clear in second with 85,640 sales, despite a 12.3 per cent sales dip, while Hyundai rounded about the podium with 64,807 sales (down 24.7 per cent). Both of these brands have previously eclipsed 100,000 annual sales.

    The rest of the top 10 were: Ford (59,601, down 5.8 per cent), Mitsubishi (58,335, down 29.9 per cent), Kia (56,076, down 8.8 per cent), Volkswagen (39,266, down 21.4 per cent), Nissan (38,323, down 24.2 per cent), Mercedes-Benz (36,233, down 6.3 per cent including vans), and Subaru (31,501, down 21.3 per cent).

    In a gloomy year there were some manufacturers which managed to grow their sales. The top three among this subset are all Chinese, showing the growing demand and availability of affordable cars imported from the world’s largest market – one with which Australia is having a sizeable diplomatic row.

    MG grew its sales by 83.2 per cent to 15,253 units, finishing 17th overall and nipping closely at the heels of Suzuki in 16th. LDV grew by 43.9 per cent to 9323 units, putting it into 18th place.

    While these two brands have different local distributors – MG has a factory importer, LDV uses Ateco Automotive – they’re part of the same company globally (SAIC Motor). Combined, SAIC’s Australian sales in 2020 thereby hit 24,576 units, putting it in 12th place overall between BMW and Honda.

    You can find a full table of the 2020 car sales by brand below:

    Brand2020 salesChange
    Isuzu Ute22,111-12.6%
    Volvo Car7700-1.0%
    Land Rover6339-28.6%
    Ram Trucks3320+15.8%
    Great Wall1941+38.5%
    Alfa Romeo734-17.6%
    Aston Martin92-28.7%
    VFACTS: Australia's new vehicle sales at their lowest since 2003


    The Toyota HiLux again topped the charts on 45,176 sales, ahead of the Ford Ranger (40,973), though the latter won the profitable 4×4 sales race (37,889 versus 34,766). Once again, Australia’s two top vehicles are utes.

    Toyota’s RAV4 was the number-one SUV and third on the charts overall, ahead of the Toyota Corolla, which was again the top passenger vehicle.

    Rounding out the top 10 were the Mazda CX-5 (not the number-one SUV, for the first time in a few years), Hyundai i30, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota Prado, Kia Cerato, and Hyundai Tucson.

    You can find a table of the top 25-selling cars below:

    Model2020 salesChange
    Toyota HiLux45,176-5.2%
    Ford Ranger40,973+0.03%
    Toyota RAV438,537+58.8%
    Toyota Corolla25,882-15.1%
    Mazda CX-521,979-13.9%
    Hyundai i3020,734-26.9%
    Mitsubishi Triton18,136-29.8%
    Toyota Prado18,034-1.6%
    Kia Cerato17,559-19.3%
    Hyundai Tucson15,789-13.5%
    Toyota LandCruiser wagon15,078+9.2%
    Isuzu D-Max15,062-10.8%
    Mazda 314,663-41.2%
    Nissan X-Trail14,291-27.6%
    Mitsubishi ASX14,056-32.4%
    Mazda CX-313,953-5.8%
    Toyota Camry13,727-18.1%
    Hyundai Kona12,514-6.2%
    Subaru Forester12,300-18.5%
    Mitsubishi Outlander12,004-31.5%
    Nissan Navara11,486-14.4%
    Toyota HiAce10,418+19.7%
    Volkswagen Golf10,355-31.2%
    Toyota LandCruiser cab-chassis10,064+9.1%
    Kia Seltos9966+386.6%

    We can also identify the most popular models in each vehicle segment, as defined by the FCAI in its VFACTS data.

    • Micro Cars: Kia Picanto (3891), Mitsubishi Mirage (594), Fiat 500 (520)
    • Light Cars under $25,000: MG 3 (7158), Toyota Yaris (5027), Kia Rio (4952)
    • Light Cars over $25,000: Mini (1613), Audi A1 (504), Renault Zoe (77)
    • Small Cars under $40,000: Toyota Corolla (25,882), Hyundai i30 (20,734, or 22,254 including the Elantra), Kia Cerato (17,559)
    • Small Cars over $40,000: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (6054), Audi A3 (2778), BMW 1 Series (2309)
    • Medium Cars under $60,000: Toyota Camry (13,727), Skoda Octavia (2111), Mazda 6 (1727)
    • Medium Cars over $60,000: BMW 3 Series (3406), Mercedes-Benz C-Class (3378), Mercedes-Benz CLA (2082)
    • Large Cars under $70,000: Kia Stinger (1778), Holden Commodore (1009), Skoda Superb (271)
    • Large Cars over $70,000: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (771), BMW 5 Series (718), Audi A6 (215)
    • Upper Large Cars: Chrysler 300 (218), Mercedes-benz S-Class (163), BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe (117)
    • People Movers: Kia Carnival (3650), Honda Odyssey (1091), LDV G10 (725)
    • Sports Cars under $80,000: Ford Mustang (2923), Hyundai Veloster (639), BMW 2 Series (628)
    • Sports Cars over $80,000: Mercedes-Benz C-Class (1225), BMW 4 Series (478), Mercedes-Benz E-Class (448)
    • Sports Cars over $200,000: Porsche 911 (431), Ferrari range (205), BMW 8 Series Coupe (104)
    • Light SUVs: Mazda CX-3 (13,953), Hyundai Venue (3678), Volkswagen T-Cross (2646)
    • Small SUVs under $40,000: Mitsubishi ASX (14,056), Hyundai Kona (12,514), Kia Seltos (9966)
    • Small SUVs over $40,000: Audi Q3 (4090), Volvo XC40 (3229), Mercedes-Benz GLA (3173)
    • Medium SUVs under $60,000: Toyota RAv4 938,537), Mazda CX-5 (21,979), Hyundai Tucson (15,789)
    • Medium SUVs over $60,000: Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV/Coupe (5799), BMW X3/X4 (5633), Lexus NX (3518)
    • Large SUVs under $70,000: Toyota Prado (10,034), Toyota Kluger (8403), Isuzu MU-X (7049)
    • Large SUVs over $70,000: BMW X5/X6 (3567), Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV/Coupe (3261), Lexus RX (1879)
    • Upper Large SUVs under $100,000: Toyota LandCruiser (15,078), Nissan Patrol (2820)
    • Upper Large SUVs over $100,000: BMW X7 (866), Mercedes-Benz GLS (813), Land Rover Discovery (795)
    VFACTS: Australia's new vehicle sales at their lowest since 2003
    • Light Vans: Volkswagen Caddy (1749), Renault Kangoo (458), Peugeot Partner (190)
    • Medium Vans: Toyota HiAce (8391), Hyundai iLoad (3919), Ford Transit Custom (2379)
    • Large Vans: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (2413), Renault Master (1429), Volkswagen Crafter (1226)
    • Light Buses: Toyota HiAce (2027), Toyota Coaster (326), Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (106)
    • 4×4 Utes: Toyota HiLux (10,410), Isuzu D-Max (4343), Ford Ranger (3084)
    • 4×4 Utes: Ford Ranger (37,889), Toyota HiLux (34,766), Mitsubishi Triton (15,649)
    VFACTS: Australia's new vehicle sales at their lowest since 2003


    Sales by State or Territory: NSW (302,117 sales, down 11.1 per cent), Victoria (226,467, down 25.6 per cent), Queensland (195,769, down 8.9 per cent), WA (89,434, down 2,7 per cent), SA (60,084, down 10.6 per cent), ACT (19,693, up 22.6 per cent), Tasmania (15,673, down 22 per cent), NT (7731, down 10.2 per cent).

    Buyer-type breakdown: Private (449,376 sales, down 6.1 per cent), Business (367,932, down 15.7 per cent), Rental (34,676, down 53 per cent), Government (30,417, down 15.7 per cent).

    Top segments by market share: Medium SUVs (19.6 per cent), 4×4 Utes (16.7 per cent), Small Cars (13.2 per cent), Small SUVs (12.6 per cent), Large SUVs (11.9 per cent), Light Cars (4.2 per cent).

    Sales by engine type: Petrol (527,871, down 19.8 per cent), diesel (290,659, down 12.5 per cent), hybrid (60,417, up 93.7 per cent), Electric excluding Tesla (1769, up 16.2 per cent), PHEV (1685, up 18.2 per cent).

    Top sources of vehicles: Japan (309,601, down 7.3 per cent), Thailand (213,456, down 21.3 per cent), Korea (123,725, down 17.9 per cent), Germany (58,558, down 30.4 per cent), USA (33,731, down 18.3 per cent), China (30,696, up 70.9 per cent).

    VFACTS: Australia's new vehicle sales at their lowest since 2003


    “COVID-19 has brought a health crisis and a corresponding economic crisis to the world during 2020,” said FCAI chief executive Tony Weber.

    “And along with the rest of Australia, automotive brands and their dealer networks have found the last twelve months an extremely challenging period.

    “The automotive industry in Australia accounts for more than 60,000 employees, with over 4,000 dealerships across the country. The contribution made by these businesses is critically important to the economic wellbeing of communities across Australia.

    “It is therefore with great relief that the industry, along with the general economy, is finally noting some positive signs within the market.”

    Previous monthly reports

    I’ll write a separate December 2020 piece shortly.

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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