Australians just bought more new cars than ever before

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Australian new car sales hit the highest level on record last month, adding to a lengthening list of indicators suggest that household spending levels are lifting.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), sales jumped by 4.5% to 103,743 in seasonally adjusted terms, surpassing the previous record peak of 101,924 set six months earlier.

From a year earlier, sales rose by an impressive 6.7%.

By category, sales of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and “other” vehicles soared by 7.2% apiece to 42,240 and 24,164 respectively last month, completely offsetting a 0.1% decline in passenger vehicle sales, which fell to 36,339.

Like the headline increase, sales rose in all states and territories aside from Western Australia and the ACT, led by a massive 11% jump in Victoria.

Strong results were also recorded in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

Over the year, a total of 1.19 million new vehicles were sold, again the highest level on record.

Within that total, 466,000 were SUVs, 451,000 were passenger vehicles and 273,000 were other vehicles.

As seen in the chart below, sales of SUVs and other vehicles rose strongly last year, increasing by 5.7% and 8.8% respectively from the levels reported in 2016.

In contrast, and helping to the fate of Australia’s car manufacturing industry, sales of passenger vehicles fell by 7% compared to a year earlier.

Annual sales of passenger vehicles are now down 30% from their peak. Over the same period, sales of SUVs — now the largest category in Australia — grew by 130%.

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