New vehicle sales unsurprisingly tanked in May, tumbling by an unprecedented 35.3 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

VFACTS data recorded 59,894 sales of cars, SUVs, light commercials and heavy commercials for the month. At the height of the global financial crisis in May 2009, sales were 75,441.

The passenger vehicle market was down by 15,054 sales (-52.1 per cent) compared to the same month last year, SUVs were down by 12,285 sales (-30 per cent), and light-commercial utes and vans were down by 4387 sales (-22.9 per cent).

That being said, the fall wasn’t as drastic as the 48.5 per cent decline that we witnessed in April, when COVID-19 restrictions were at their harshest.

CEO of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) – the peak lobby group for the car-makers – Tony Weber said the virus was just the latest in a series of problems to beset the industry.

“May 2020 is the 26th consecutive month of negative growth for the market, and the causative factors are well documented – droughts, floods, bushfires, tight lending conditions, unfavourable exchange rates, and political uncertainty,” he said.

VFACTS: Australia's new car sales tank during May

“Now, we add to that the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past three months. While COVID-19 is primarily a health crisis, it has brought about an economic crisis as well… and this of course has repercussions for the local sales sector, including the automotive industry.”

At the same time, Weber welcomed the federal government’s “timely response” with policies such as JobKeeper, and claimed to see “green shoots” in the marketplace.

“With people venturing out a little more, dealers have advised of a slight uptick in floor traffic through dealerships… Additionally, we are hearing from some brands that website traffic is on the rise – a sure sign of increased purchasing interest.

“And finally, brand End of Financial Year campaigns have started, meaning the opportunity to snare a bargain has increased significantly.”

Then again, the representative for car brands would say that, right?


Toyota was utterly dominant, snaring 24.2 per cent total market share. In other words, nearly a quarter of all vehicles sold wore a Toyota badge.

Every mainstream brand of note went backwards at a rate of knots: Mazda in second place declined by 34 per cent, Hyundai by 49 per cent, Ford by 33 per cent, Mitsubishi by 41 per cent, Volkswagen by 38.5 per cent, Kia by 50 per cent (the fast-growing brand’s worst performance in ages), Mercedes-Benz including vans and utes by 28 per cent, Nissan by 44 per cent, and Subaru by 50 per cent.

Positions 11-20 were occupied by: BMW (down just 1.9 per cent), Honda (down 47 per cent), Holden (down 61.5 per cent and now almost out of stock), Isuzu Ute (down 32 per cent as it gears up for the brand new D-Max launch this month), Audi (down only 4 per cent), Suzuki (down 38 per cent), MG (up 14.5 per cent, the highest-volume brand that grew), Lexus (down 28 per cent), LDV (down 20.5 per cent), and Land Rover (down 46 per cent).

You can see a full list below. Note that Ferrari’s 20 sales doubled that of Citroen and quadrupled Genesis…

Note also Ram Trucks, distributed by Sydney’s Ateco and re-engineered to right-hand drive by Walkinshaw in Melbourne, grew sales of the 1500 pickup by 42 per cent and got within 8 units of outselling Jeep, which has native right-hand vehicles sold by a factory distributor.

Sales by brand, May 2020 v May 2019

BrandSales+/- %
Kia 2760-50.1
Mercedes-Benz 2255-28.3
Subaru 2023-49.7
Honda 1952-47.2
Isuzu Ute1439-32.4
Land Rover452-46.3
Volvo Car400-33.3
Great Wall120-20
Fiat 81-50.9
Alfa Romeo28-51.7
Citroen 10-82.1
Aston Martin6-33.3
Lotus 6+500
Genesis 5+66.7


Toyota made nine of the top 25 models (separating the LandCruiser into 70/200 Series wagon, and cab chassis, tallies), and made the best-selling ute, SUV, and passenger vehicle.

Top 25 models by sales in May

Toyota HiLux3527
Ford Ranger 2663
Toyota RAV42345
Toyota Corolla1626
Mazda CX-51479
Toyota Prado 1358
LandCruiser wagon1260
Hyundai i30 1191
Mazda 31052
Hyundai Tucson 1019
Isuzu D-Max1010
Toyota Camry 911
Mazda CX-3883
LandCruiser cab chassis872
Mitsubishi Triton866
Holden Colorado 855
Kia Cerato 842
Mazda BT-50823
Toyota HiAce van/bus796
Toyota C-HR789
Nissan X-Trail768
Volkswagen Golf742
Hyundai Kona737
Nissan Navara726
Mitsubishi ASX725

In terms of segment breakdowns, Medium SUVs commanded the highest market share with 19.2 per cent, ahead of 4×4 Utes (18.3), Small Cars (13.0), Large SUVs (11.6), Small SUVs (11.2), Light and Micro Cars (4.0), Medium Cars (3.6), 4×2 Utes (3.2), Upper Large SUVs (3.0), and Light SUVs (2.9).

Segment leader tables

Kia Picanto: 203Mitsu Mirage: 42Fiat 500: 37
Suzuki Swift: 313MG 3: 302Kia Rio: 271
Mini: 111Audi A1: 36Citroen C3: 4
Toyota Corolla: 1626Hyundai i30: 1191Mazda 3: 1052
MB A-Class: 352BMW 1: 194Audi A3: 168
Toyota Camry: 911Mazda 6: 125Skoda Octavia: 94
BMW 3: 268MB CLA: 174MB C-Class: 139
Kia Stinger: 93Commodore: 40Skoda Superb: 15
BMW 5: 57MB E-Class: 29Audi A6: 11
BMW 8 GC: 14BMW 7: 10MB S-Class: 7
Kia Carnival: 190Hyundai iMax: 68Honda Odyssey: 46
Ford Mustang: 257MB C-Class: 75Toyota 86: 40
Porsche 911: 30Ferrari: 20BMW 8 coupe: 9

Above: Top 3 sellers per passenger segment
Mazda CX-3: 883Hyundai Venue: 246Holden Trax: 225
Toyota C-HR: 789Hyundai Kona: 737Mitsu ASX: 725
Audi Q3: 329Volvo XC40: 209BMW X1: 299
Toyota RAV4: 2345Mazda CX-5: 1479Hyun Tucson: 1019
BMW X3/X4: 565MB GLC/Coupe: 445Lexus NX: 246
Toyota Prado: 1358Toyota Kluger: 541Mazda CX-9: 453
BMW X5/X6: 322MB GLE/Coupe: 198Lexus RS: 142
LandCruiser: 1260Nissan Patrol: 219
MB GLS: 77BMW X7: 75LR Discovery: 46

Above: Top 3 sellers per SUV segment
VW Caddy: 133Renault Kangoo: 35Peugeot Partner: 11
Toyota HiAce: 615Hyundai iLoad: 239Ford Transit C: 219
HiLux 4×2: 727Isuzu D-Max 4×2: 348Maz BT-50 4×2: 246
HiLux 4×4: 2800Ranger 4×4: 2499LandCruiser: 872

Above: Top 3 sellers per light commercial vehicle segment


Breakdown by State/Territory:

  • NSW: 19,403, down 34.6 per cent
  • Victoria: 15,366, down 41.2 per cent
  • Queensland: 12,821, down 33.1 per cent
  • WA: 5772, down 26.4 per cent
  • SA: 3802, down 32.4 per cent
  • ACT: 1372, down 5.2 per cent
  • Tasmania: 844, down 51.7 per cent
  • NT: 514, down 45.8 per cent

Sales by sub total:

  • Private: 28,570, down 32.1 per cent
  • Business: 24,758, down 34.8 per cent
  • Government: 2721, down 16.4 per cent
  • Rental: 1230, down 78.5 per cent

Sales by fuel:

  • Petrol: 33,442
  • Diesel: 22,960
  • Hybrid: 3271
  • EV/PHEV excluding Tesla: 221

Main sources of imports:

  • Japan: 20,028
  • Thailand: 14,649
  • Korea: 6942
  • Germany: 4466
  • USA: 2568
  • China: 1450
  • England: 1260
  • Hungary: 896
  • Czech Republic: 739
  • Mexico: 707

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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