The Australian motor vehicle market has shown its resilience by setting a new record for the month of March.
The industry shrugged off a slight sales dip in February to record a total of 87,156 last month - up 0.6 per cent on the previous record set in 2005.
At the end of the first quarter total sales were 234,605 - down 2887 or 1.2 per cent on the same period last year.
The first-quarter result is actually very good when you consider that the industry set sales records in two out the three months, said the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), Peter Sturrock.
At this early stage sales have put the industry on track to meet the Chamber’s forecast of 980,000 for the year.
Last year the industry set a new record total of 988,269 - the fourth year in a row that sales has reached record levels.
The biggest trend in the market remains the boom in Light car sales - which were up 19.9 per cent in March and 22.3 per cent for the first quarter.
Higher fuel prices are clearly having an influence on buying patterns but there’s more to it than simply that, said Mr Sturrock.
The new generation of comparatively safer and better-equipped Light cars is attracting entry-level motorists who might previously have bought a second-hand vehicle.
Mr Sturrock said the effect of fuel prices was obvious in the sales of the previously booming Sports Utility Market, which was down 9.0 per cent in the first quarter.
The trend for the Medium and Large car segments was also softer with Medium cars below $55,000 down 8.7 per cent for the year to date and Large cars below $80,000 down 17.6 per cent.
The release of new models has a positive effect on how various segments fare, and we’re hopeful that Medium and Large car sales will pick up when new product is launched in the second half of the year, said Mr Sturrock.
The Light Commercial Vehicle sales have been one of the other drivers of overall market growth.
LCV sales were up 12.8 per cent last month and 6.7 per cent for the first quarter.
Commercial vehicle sales remain remarkably robust, despite evidence elsewhere of some softening in economic conditions, said Peter Sturrock.
The willingness to buy new light trucks suggests there’s still plenty of confidence amongst business, he said.
Toyota was market leader in March with 18,649 sales, ahead of Holden (13,555) and Ford (11,118).
At the end of the first quarter Toyota leads Holden by 10,842.
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