Australians bought more cars and trucks in 2005 than ever before to set an all-time motor vehicle sales record of 988,269, according to figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).
It was the fourth successive year of market growth. Demand since 2001 has increased by more than 200,000 vehicles or better than 27 per cent.
This year's sales record was 3.5 per cent up on the previous record of 955,259 set last year.
Passenger motor vehicle sales are up 3.2 per cent and have exceeded 600,000, finishing at 608,804.
Demand for SUVs is up 4.2 per cent to 180,292 and light commercial vehicles are 2.6 per cent ahead of 2005 at 167,878.
FCAI Chief Executive Peter Sturrock today said the market would be equally strong in 2006 and confirmed the Chamber's assessment of 980,000 vehicle sales for the second year in a row.
"The FCAI began 2005 with a prediction of 980,000 sales for the year and that outlook has been proven to be almost exactly correct," Mr Sturrock said.
"While general economic conditions will soften in 2006, the motor vehicle market will stabilise at its current level of strength."
The potential to reach one million vehicle sales in 2005 was lost in the last quarter.
A reduction in demand of 2.5 per cent in the last quarter halted the momentum which had resulted in eight all-time record sales months in the first three quarters of the year.
Small cars attracted big demand in 2005.
Sales of small cars exceeded 200,000 for the first time, attracting 215,324 buyers for 35.4 per cent of the total passenger vehicle market.
Significantly, demand for small cars was up 18.6 per cent year on year, while demand for large cars diminished by 15.7 per cent to 153,244 vehicles.
Small and light car specialist Toyota was the country's top-selling brand in 2005 with a record 202,817 sales - marginally greater than its 2004 winning total of 201,737.
Its Corolla was the country's top-selling small car with an all-time record of 46,415 sales.
Holden's Commodore was again the country's largest-selling individual model but with a reduced 66,794 deliveries, down from 79,170 the year before.
"There has been a seachange in market demand," Mr Sturrock said.
"Private buyers and fleets are adjusting their purchasing patterns to suit their changing needs, including their views on the effect of petrol pricing and running costs."
Mr Sturrock said 2006 would see a fightback from manufacturers and distributors of large six-cylinder cars.
"Two manufacturers are planning the launch of significant new models in the large car market on top of Mitsubishi's recently released 380 and Ford's upgraded Falcon," he said.
"The large car market is uniquely Australian and it is pivotal to the success of the entire market, and to Australia's export opportunities."
Mr Sturrock said Ford's success with the SUV Territory had been one of the highlights of the 2005 model year.
Demand for Territory reached 23,454, 72 per cent more than the previous year and the vehicle was instrumental in leading the 19.6 per cent increase in the medium SUV market.
"Australians' record demand for SUVs is likely to stabilise in 2006, especially in the light of growing competition from traditional passenger motor vehicles which are becoming increasingly even better equipped and more flexible," Mr Sturrock said.
"Consumer choice has never been more varied, and it is the competitive push amongst manufacturers and distributors to meet every customer need that will spur the market in 2006."
"Forward ordering by manufacturers appears not to have slowed going into 2006 and that guarantees a buoyant and attractive environment for customers."
Toyota, Holden and Ford were the three top-selling makes in 2005, accounting for better than half total demand (51.2 per cent).
Mitsubishi was again in fifth position.
Mazda and Nissan swapped their 2004 positions with Mazda moving to fourth place for the first time with 66,250 deliveries ahead of Mitsubishi 61,907 and Nissan dropping to sixth 56,032.
Hyundai was the first Korean manufacturer, in seventh position with 48,010 sales, narrowly ahead of Honda (47,001).
Subaru had a record year with 36,044 sales to finish ninth ahead of Kia, 10th on 25,293.
Note to editors: FCAI CEO Peter Sturrock is available for media comment on 5 January 2006.