The fall in new vehicle sales in Australia is now in its 20th month and getting deeper, but still no acknowledgment from the industry about the role that electric vehicle buying intentions may be playing in the industry.
The latest figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) shows that new vehicles sales in Australia fell 9.8 per cent in November, compared to the same month last year.
This is a 20th consecutive monthly fall, and the sales in the year to date also make grim reading for the industry, down 8.2 per cent to 978,628 units.
The biggest impact is on passenger vehicle sales, which fell 21.3 per cent to 23,022 vehicles in November. Light commercial vehicles (utes), which make up the top three selling models, fell 8.8 per cent, while SUV sales were down 1.1 per cent.
“It is a tough market – full stop,” said FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said.
“The industry has been looking for a lift for some time now and has activated multiple levers to achieve some stimulation, including incentives, sales and special vehicle editions. However, the appetite for new vehicles remains suppressed.”
Weber in the past has blamed tight lending practices and the faltering economy.
But again there was no mention of the impact of the EV market, if not in actual sales, but at least the decision by many consumers to put off any new vehicle purchases until an affordable and desirable EV appears – a trend identified in numerous consumer surveys.
To put this in a broader context, global sales of new vehicles have also fallen, down 5.8 per cent according to a new report from the Economic Intelligence Unit.
It puts the blame on those sales down to lower consumer confidence, but also the impact in some countries of trade wars and new emission standards, neither of which are felt in Australia, which has recorded the steepest fall of any region. (See table above).
The EIU predicts a 1.7 per cent rise in global car sales in 2020, with the biggest boost coming from electric vehicles, which it expects to jump to 2.8 million from 2.2 million (a rise of 30 per cent), driven by initiatives such as the new Tesla gigafactory in China, and the response of Chinese manufacturers.
Back in Australia, it is interesting to note that of the best-selling models,three that posted significant gains – the Toyota RAV4, the Toyota Camry and the Mitsubishi Outlander – had hybrid options that accounted for a large and increasing part of their sales.
A spokesman for Toyota said the hybrid version of RAV4 – launched earlier this year – accounted for 40 per cent of the overall sales of the model.
That means that sales of the petrol versions of RAV4 have fallen since last November, but overall sales jumped 20 per cent, thanks to the hybrid version which the spokesman noted was “the most economic and most powerful version.”
Similarly, hybrid versions of the Camry now account for 50 per cent of overall model sales, suggesting it is also the driving force behind the overall jump for that model, while the Corolla hatch also saw 45 per cent of its sales sourced from hybrids.
Is there a trend here? Toyota says hybrids will make up around 25,000 sales in 2019, or about 12 per cent of its total, but it is looking to increase that to 40,000 in 2029, or around 20 per cent of the overall mix.
The FCAI data does not include sales by Tesla, which would have been higher thanks to the recently introduced Model 3. Tesla sells direct to market, and not through a dealership.
Interestingly, Mercedes announced this week that its first electric model in Australia, the EQC 400, can also be bought on-line, and not through a dealership.