How SUVs are defying the coronavirus recession with Toyota RAV4 top seller again in August

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SUVs are defying the coronavirus recession with sales of the Toyota RAV4 surging by more than 140 per cent compared with a year ago.

Cars with higher ground clearance – such as SUVs and traditional four-wheel drives  – now make up more than half, or a record 53 per cent, of all new vehicles sold in Australia.

When utes are added to the mix, 71.5 per cent of wheels on Australian roads are a high-rider.

The RAV4 in July made history as the first ever SUV to win a monthly sales race in Australia, with buyers particularly keen on the petrol-electric hybrid version.

This SUV cemented its placed in the top spot in August, with its sales 140.5 per cent stronger compared with the same month in 2019, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries monthly VFacts data has revealed. 

SUVs are defying the coronavirus recession with sales of the Toyota RAV4 surging by more than 140 per cent compared with a year ago. The RAV4 also has the only sub-$40,000 hybrid SUV available in Australia

SUVs are defying the coronavirus recession with sales of the Toyota RAV4 surging by more than 140 per cent compared with a year ago. The RAV4 also has the only sub-$40,000 hybrid SUV available in Australia

The RAV4 also has the only sub-$40,000 hybrid SUV available in Australia.

Last month, 4,825 new RAV4s left showrooms.

This occurred even as the broader car market suffered a 28.8 per cent slide, the worst August result in 23 years, as COVID-19 trading restrictions crippled the economy.

Motoring expert Toby Hagon, the editor of EV Central, said long waiting lists for the hybrid RAV4 had led to the sales surge, despite Australia now being in recession.

‘There has been pent-up demand for this car – they had issue meeting demand over the first half of this year,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘These may well have been orders that were placed a month, or two or three ago and they finally got the demand to meet them.’

Mr Hagon said Toyota had underestimated demand for the RAV4 hybrid when the new model was released late last year.

‘The hybrid is the one that has had the demand on it – it’s the only sub-$40,000 hybrid SUV on the market so there’s been a lot of interest,’ he said.

SUVs from Mazda were the only other cars in the top ten to enjoy a sales increase with the CX-5 surging into third spot with a 4.8 per cent rise

SUVs from Mazda were the only other cars in the top ten to enjoy a sales increase with the CX-5 surging into third spot with a 4.8 per cent rise

‘Some months, the hybrid has made up almost 80 per cent of sales so it’s been a very popular vehicle for them.’

Australia’s bestsellers

1. Toyota RAV4: up 140.5% to 4,825

2. Ford Ranger: down 7.7% to 2,935

3. Mazda CX-5: up 4.8% to 1,884

4. Toyota LandCruiser: down 14.8% to 1,633

5. Toyota Corolla: down 48.9% to 1,464

6. Hyundai i30: down 49.2% to 1,429

7. Mitsubishi Triton: down 19.9% to 1,406

8. Kia Cerato: down 25% to 1,264

9. Toyota HiLux: down 66.9% to 1,217

10. Mazda CX-3: up 3.6% to 1,136

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFacts data comparing August 2020 with August 2019 

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SUVs from Mazda were the only other cars in the top ten to enjoy a sales increase with the CX-5 surging into third spot with a 4.8 per cent rise.

The smaller CX-3 enjoyed a smaller 3.6 per cent annual sales increase.

While none of the smaller SUV are considered to be serious off-roaders, Mr Hagon said they appealed to fathers who wanted something practical that also looked adventurous.

‘Certainly the design, the look of an SUV is extremely important,’ he said. 

‘Australian families, particularly Australian men, don’t necessarily aspire to own a people mover.’ 

The Toyota LandCruiser was last month Australia’s fourth bestselling vehicle, despite a 14.8 per cent sales plunge.

This large four-wheel drive outsold the small Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai i30 – two former bestsellers that both suffered a 49 per cent sales dive in August.

The Toyota HiLux also had a bad month, despite the release late last month of an updated model, with its sales diving by 66.9 per cent. 

Sales of the dual cab and workhorse ute fell to No. 9 on the sales chart.

In July, the HiLux lost its No.1 spot for the first time since October 2017.

The Ford Ranger ute has now outsold it for two months running, reaching second place on the sales chart, despite a sales dive of 7.7 per cent.

During the last recession in mid-1991, the Australian-made Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore were Australia’s top selling cars, back when imported passenger cars incurred 37.5 per cent tariffs.

The smaller CX-3 enjoyed a smaller 3.6 per cent annual sales increase

The smaller CX-3 enjoyed a smaller 3.6 per cent annual sales increase

Neither vehicle during that year fell outside the first and second places in the monthly sales charts – with the two cars between them commanding more than a third of the new car market.

Three decades ago, 78 per cent of cars registered on Australian roads was a passenger car.

In August 2020, passenger cars made up just 24 per cent of new vehicles sold in Australia.

Passenger car sales last month added up to 14,758, a level marginally higher than the 11,234 utes sold, and less than half the 32,378 new SUVs registered.

Unlike 1991, larger sedans with six or eight cylinders don’t even feature in the top ten in August 2020, three years after the last Holden Commodore was made in Australia. 

‘The biggest change has been the fragmentation of the market,’ Mr Hagon said.

‘No longer do we have such a limited number of options, particularly when it comes to family vehicles – keep in mind back in the 1990s we had some pretty serious tariffs in place to try and protect the local car industry.’ 

The Toyota HiLux had a bad month, despite the release late last month of an updated model, with its sales diving by 66.9 per cent. Sales of the dual cab and workhorse ute fell to nine on the sales chart

The Toyota HiLux had a bad month, despite the release late last month of an updated model, with its sales diving by 66.9 per cent. Sales of the dual cab and workhorse ute fell to nine on the sales chart

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