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Fuel Prices and Model Changes Shape Car Market

Australian motor vehicle sales in July were down just 1.4 per cent despite record fuel prices, concerns over interest rates and the one-off effects of the major changeover of two locally manufactured models.

Official figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that 77,562 cars, trucks and buses were sold in July - down just 1079 vehicles on the all-time record for the month set last year.

So far this year motor vehicle sales are down 3.1 per cent from record 2005 levels.

"Especially in view of current circumstances July motor vehicle sales were very strong and a great encouragement for the automotive industry," FCAI chief executive Peter Sturrock said.

The unique changeover of two of Australia's leading locally made models - Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry - was largely responsible for the downturn in registration figures, he said.

Toyota delivered just 656 four-cylinder Camrys in July compared to 2021 in the same month last year.

Holden delivered 4022 Commodores compared to 5445 in 2005.

"Both companies are completing runout campaigns in preparation for the public launch of their new models," Mr Sturrock said.

Mr Sturrock said the strong June market in which 96,448 vehicles were delivered did not appear to have adversely affected the July result.

"Traditionally end-of-financial-year demand creates a pull forward which adversely affects July," Mr Sturrock said.

"However this year the effects of the pull-through have been minimal".

Mr Sturrock said private motor vehicle sales weathered high fuel prices and the expectation of an interest rate rise remarkably well during July.

"Clearly the Reserve Bank expects its decision will dampen consumer spending but its effect on the automotive market is yet to be determined," Mr Sturrock said.

Demand for light cars year to date is now up 21.4 per cent and for small cars up 3.7 per cent.

"There is no doubt that the changing buying patterns of Australian motorists are having an effect on the composition of the market," Mr Sturrock said.

However the FCAI is remaining firm in its forecast of 980,000 motor vehicle sales in 2006.

"The current running rate points to an actual registration of 961,000 vehicles," Mr Sturrock said.

"But competitive activity, especially amongst local manufacturers with new and improved models, is certain to result in substantial market reaction in the next five months."

Toyota was the top motor vehicle brand in July with 16,977 sales, ahead of Holden (11,129) and Ford (9627).

For the year to the end of July, Toyota now leads Holden by 36,071 sales.

For more information contact:
Peter Sturrock
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries