We all knew that car sales in Australia during April would be disastrously low thanks to COVID-19, and VFACTs figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries have borne that out. 

    There were 38,926 new vehicles counted as sold last month, excluding the handful of brands that do not share data, most notably Tesla (to which we’ve reached out, and am yet to hear back from).

    That’s a decline of 48.5 per cent over April 2019’s tally of 75,550. 

    It is also the largest single decrease of any month since VFACTs figures were first recorded in 1991. For context, the sales in April 2009 during the height of the Global Financial Crisis were 63,965. 

    Sales in South Australia, Tasmania, NSW and Victoria fell by 50 per cent. Counter-intuitively sales in the ACT grew 25 per cent, in large part down to replacement vehicles purchased following a huge hail storm. 

    Nationally, year-to-date figures are down 21 per cent over last year’s cumulative tally at 272,287 units. The market has now been contracting for 25 successive months. 


    By contracting in sales ‘only’ 32 per cent, Toyota grew its market share to 26.5 per cent and made five of the top-selling six vehicles (HiLux, RAV4, LandCruiser, Corolla and Prado). I believe that’s called domination.

    Mazda finished second despite falling 60.5 per cent. Stunningly, Kia finished third and beat out both Ford and its Hyundai big brother – outselling the latter for the second month this year.

    Mitsubishi finished sixth while declining 63.2 per cent, and amazingly it was BMW in seventh. The Bavarian brand only declined 5.7 per cent as models such as the 3 Series, X1, X4, X6, X7, and new 2 Series Gran Coupe all grew compared to April 2019.

    Holden’s dealers got rid of 1501 cars, more than half of them Colorados. Nissan declined 51.5 per cent, edging out Mercedes-Benz which rounded out the top 10.

    Both Chinese brand MG and the Australian importer for Ram Trucks (Ateco, licensing Walkinshaw to do right-hand drive conversions and re-engineering) managed to grow their sales compared to April 2019, which is an impressive achievement.

    April 2020 salesChange %
    Toyota 10,325-31.8
    Hyundai 2247-65.3
    BMW 1703-5.7
    Holden 1501-56.9
    Nissan 1468-51.5
    Subaru 1282-57.4
    Isuzu Ute1099-41.2
    Renault 311-32.4
    Volvo Car287-53.4
    Land Rover248-60.6
    Porsche 227-32.8
    Great Wall72-28.7

    April sales: The top 30 manufacturers

    Small-volume brands that were not on that list included Fiat and Peugeot (71 apiece), SsangYong (54), Maserati (24), Chrysler (16), Alfa Romeo (13), Ferrari (nine), Lamborghini (nine), Genesis (seven, despite selling online), Citroen (a paltry six), Bentley (four), and Aston Martin, Lotus, and Rolls-Royce (one apiece).


    Toyota sold more than a quarter of the top 30 models (eight overall). Mazda had five, Kia, Hyundai and Mitsubishi each had three, both of Isuzu Ute’s models were in there, and Nissan also had two.

    Ford, Holden, Subaru and Volkswagen each had one.

    April 2020 sales
    Toyota HiLux2339
    Toyota RAV41911
    Toyota LandCruiser 70 and 2001603 (924 wagons)
    Ford Ranger1540
    Toyota Corolla1195
    Toyota Prado947
    Kia Cerato860
    Holden Colorado854
    Isuzu D-Max760
    Hyundai i30695
    Toyota Camry 675
    Mazda CX-5648
    Nissan Navara519
    Subaru Forester510
    Hyundai Tucson494
    Toyota C-HR480
    Toyota HiAce van and bus479
    Mitsubishi Triton469
    Nissan X-Trail469
    Mazda BT-50466
    Mitsubishi Outlander 459
    Mazda CX-30452
    Kia Sportage439
    Mazda CX-3394
    Hyundai Kona 379
    Kia Seltos 378
    Mitsubishi ASX348
    Volkswagen Golf343
    Isuzu MU-X339

    April sales: The top 30 models

    In terms of segment breakdowns, the most popular type of vehicles were 4×4 Utes (18.2 per cent market share, growing to 21.4 per cent if 4x4s were included), ahead of Medium SUVs (18.1), Small Cars (12.1), Large SUVs (11.4), and Small SUVs (10.9).

    These five vehicle segments accounted for about three-quarters of all sales.

    MicroKia Picanto 99Fiat 500 20Mitsubishi Mirage 19
    LightKia Rio 251MG3 222Suzuki Swift 182
    Light luxMini 74Audi 17Citroen C3 1
    SmallToyota Corolla 1195Kia Cerato 860Hyundai i30 695
    Small luxMercedes A-Class 217BMW 1 Series 116Audi A3 65
    Medium Toyota Camry 675Mazda6 71Skoda Octavia 39
    Medium luxBMW 3 Series 254Mercedes CLA 94Mercedes C-Class 87
    LargeKia Stinger 75Holden Commodore 30Skoda Superb 2
    Large luxMercedes E-Class 36BMW 5 Series 30Maserati Ghibli 11
    UpperChrysler 300 16BMW 6 Series GT 15BMW 8 Series 5
    MPVsKia Carnival 220Hyundai iMax 30Honda Odyssey 26
    Sports Ford Mustang 146BMW 2 Series 62Mazda MX-5 33
    Sports luxBMW 4 Series 50Mercedes C-Class 38BMW Z4 14

    Above: Top three sellers per passenger vehicle segment
    LightMazda CX-3 394Volkswagen T-Cross 188Holden Trax 178
    SmallToyota C-HR 480Mazda CX-30 452Hyundai Kona 379
    Small luxBMW X1 222Volvo XC40 177Audi Q3 151
    MediumToyota RAV4 1911Mazda CX-5 648Subaru Forester 510
    Medium luxBMW X3/X4 425Mercedes GLC/Coupe 237Lexus NX 140
    Large Toyota Prado 947Isuzu MU-X 339Toyota Kluger 313
    Large luxBMW X5/X6 300Mercedes GLE/Coupe 119Range Rover Sport 81
    Upper Toyota LandCruiser 924Nissan Patrol 150BMW X7 60

    Above: Top three sellers per SUV segment
    Light vansVolkswagen Caddy 69Renault Kangoo 25Peugeot Partner 6
    Mid vans Toyota HiAce 308Hyundai iLoad 152Ford Transit Cust. 105
    4×2 UteToyota HiLux 456Isuzu D-Max 198Mazda BT-50 147
    4×4 UteToyota HiLux 1883Ford Ranger 1419Holden Colorado 780

    Above: Top three sellers per light commercial segment


    Private sales fell 47.7 per cent to 17,094 and business fleet sales fell 49.6 per cent to 15,758. Government fleet sales fell a more modest 12.6 per cent to 2543, and rental car sales declined 78.9 per cent to 1221.

    There were 131 EVs and PHEVs sold excluding Tesla, equal to just 0.3 per cent market share. Plug-less hybrid vehicles found 2809 buyers, equal to 7.2 per cent share.

    The top sources of imports were Japan (13,077), Thailand (9632), Korea (4778), Germany (2533) and the USA (1747).

    Quote from FCAI chief Tony Weber

    “Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major influence on the April sales result, and reflects a downturn in the broader economy right across the country.

    “Figures recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 31 per cent of Australian citizens have experienced a decrease in income due to the pandemic.

    “In addition 72 per cent of Australian businesses reported that reduced cash flow is expected to have an adverse impact on business over the next two months.

    “These conditions inevitably impact consumer confidence and purchase decisions.

    “Our member brands are working closely with their dealer networks to ensure dealerships are accessible and safe.  Enhanced hygiene protocols and contact-less sales and social interactions have been initiated to ensure personal protection for both customers and dealer staff.

    “We know that our member brands are doing everything they can to assist both their dealerships and their valued customers during this difficult time.

    “But more needs to be done.  We are calling on Federal and State Governments to consider the automotive industry, which employs over 65,000 people in Australia, when compiling their recovery plans.

    “The JobKeeper and JobSeeker payment programs put in place by the Federal Government are a welcome initiative. 

    “However, we believe the scope needs to ensure high turnover and low margin businesses, such as new car dealerships, are covered.

    “These businesses are often the backbone of local communities and in the current environment, many are facing overwhelming challenges.

    “As well as continued business initiatives, support to bolster consumer confidence is imperative to the strength of our economy.

    “We have begun to see a slight lift in consumer confidence as the COVID-19 restrictions start to ease.  We really need further measures to support this confidence and continue the positive trend.

    “Initially, we would ask that the instant asset write off package is extended to further stimulate business purchasing.”

    Do you have any questions you’d like to ask? Put them in the comments and we will answer.

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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