Australian new vehicles sales rose to the second highest level on record last month according to latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
After seasonal adjustments, sales increased by 2.2% to 100,295 vehicles in March, fractionally below the 100,538 record struck in September 2015.
The solid rise left sales up 4.2% from a year earlier, a slight acceleration on the 2.5% annual pace seen in February.
By sales of SUVs rose by 14.7% from 12 months earlier, marginally shading an increase of 14.4% in sales of “other” vehicles. Offsetting those increases, sales of passenger vehicles slumped by 7.5%.
Despite the continued weakness in passenger vehicles sales, they still accounted for the most sales of any category over the past 12 months.
504,643 passenger vehicles were sold, representing a decline of 4.5% on sales seen in the year to March 2015.
Sales of SUVs increased by 16.4% over the same time period to 423,878 vehicles, the highest 12 month total on record. Those for other vehicles increased by 3.0% to 237,658.
Combined, new car sales over the past year numbered 1,166,180, the largest number on record.
The chart below breaks sales by category down on a rolling annual basis.
By percentage, passenger vehicle sales represented 43.3% of all new vehicles sold over the past 12 months, with sales of SUVs and other vehicles accounting for 36.3% and 20.4% of market share.
The chart below shows the divergent performance between passenger vehicles sales and those for SUVs going back to when the ABS data first began in the mid 1990s.
It appears to be only as matter of when, not if, SUV sales will take the mantle as the most popular vehicle category in Australia.