The Australian motor vehicle market remained slightly softer in May, with sales finishing just 0.6 per cent down on the record for the month set last year.
According to figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) a total of 83,457 cars trucks and buses were sold last month - just 497 vehicles or 0.6 per cent down on May 2005.
"When considered against the backdrop of recent high fuel prices and last month's interest rate rise, the performance of the motor vehicle market is very encouraging," said the Chief Executive of the FCAI, Peter Sturrock.
Mr Sturrock said that despite these adverse factors the projected annual sales total for 2006 is still tracking very close to the Chamber's forecast of 980,000 - slightly down on last year's all-time record.
Year-to-date sales totalled 383,712 at the end of May - down 11,221 vehicles or 2.8 per cent on the same period last year.
"The consumer appetite for new cars - particularly new small cars - remains very healthy and we could see the motor vehicle market regain a little ground in the second half of the year when the recently announced tax cuts take effect," said Mr Sturrock.
Fuel prices continued to influence buying patterns last month, with sales of Light cars up 29.2 per cent and Small cars up 9.9 per cent on May last year.
Year-to-date Light car sales have grown more than any other segment of the market - up 8553.
Sales of Sports Utility Vehicles are down 6729 or 8.8 per cent year-to-date while the Large car segment is down 15,106 or 21.6 per cent.
In contrast to the general market trend towards smaller, more economical vehicles, sales of four-wheel-drive utes are growing strongly.
The Pick-up/Cab-chassis 4x4 segment was up 12.1 per cent in May and year-to-date is up 10.2 per cent or 2466 vehicles.
"The strong sales of four-wheel-drive utes indicates both the continuing confidence of the business community but also that a lot of these vehicles are being bought with a view to personal recreational use," said Peter Sturrock.
Toyota was the top-selling brand in May with 18,310, followed by Holden with 12,012 and Ford with 11,145.
Year-to-date Toyota now leads Holden by 21,435.
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