Australians are going crazy for utes

Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
  • Australians have bought 291,538 new vehicles so far in 2018, the largest sales on record.
  • 42.3% were sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
  • New car sales are being supported by low interest rates, strong employment growth, booming construction activity and continued optimism among business, among other factors.

Australians are buying more new cars than ever before, especially utes.

According to VFACTS, 106,988 new vehicles were purchased during March, leaving year-to-date at 291,538, an increase of 4.4%.

Source: VFACTS

“To have the market at 4.4% ahead of last year’s record total is a clear vote of consumer confidence in the economy’s stability and low interest rates, both key factors which encourage private buyers and businesses into new vehicles,” said Tony Weber, Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

As has been the case for some time now, sales were powered by explosive demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs), offsetting continued weakness in passenger vehicle sales.

“SUVs provided the market’s firm support during March with private sales up 7.6% and business sales up 0.4% in a segment which increased 9.7% overall compared with the same month last year,” VFACTS said.

“SUV sales grew progressively during the first quarter to now represent 42.3% of the total market.”

At the other end of the spectrum, passenger vehicle and light commercial sales fell 7.3% and 0.4% respectively from a year earlier.

By location, VFACTS said sales rose in five of Australia’s seven states and territories from March 2017.

“The Northern Territory led the way with 12.8% growth, followed by the ACT with 7.9%, then Victoria (+6.3%), Queensland (+1.8%), and Western Australia (+1.3%),” it said.

“South Australia (-0.9%), Tasmania (-2.2%) and New South Wales (-2.6%) all recorded falls.”

By manufacturer, Toyota maintained its dominant position, accounting for 17.6% of total market share in March. That was double second-placed Mazda at 9.1% and Mitsubishi at 8.2%.

Source: VFACTS

The Toyota HiLux retained the title as the highest selling new car in Australia at 4,348 units over the month, edging out the Ford Ranger — another utility — in second spot at 4,064 units.

Source: VFACTS

Toyota said its 52,465 new vehicle sales in the first quarter is the best start to the year in a decade, with three consecutive monthly sales records for both HiLux and its SUVs.

With 12,600 HiLux deliveries in 2018, sales are up 22.3% on 2017, while the SUV tally stands at 19,100 vehicles, a rise of 26.6%. The RAV4 has posted six consecutive monthly records to be up 11.8% year to 5,573 vehicles – the highest first quarter in its 24-year local history.

New car sales are being supported by a number of factors including low interest rates, strong employment growth, booming construction activity and continued optimism among business.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.