Tim O'Brien | Dec 4, 2008

In the clearest sign yet that consumer confidence has taken a dive, total new car sales for November are down 22 percent on the same period last year.

In figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (VFACTS figures), sales for November totalled 71,647 vehicles, down 20,434 vehicles against sales for November last year. These sales represent a 9.8 percent fall from October sales. Year to date sales, however, are down just 2.9 percent - largely thanks to a strong first three quarters. This year, a total of 935,684 new vehicles have exited showrooms.

Toyota again took the market lead, followed by Holden and Ford. There is daylight between number one and two spots, with Toyota leading Holden by a margin of 100,464 vehicle sales.

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Biggest loser among the vehicle segments, unsurprisingly, was the SUV market, which fell 28.1 percent, followed by the heavy commercial vehicle market, a 25 percent fall, and the passenger car market, down 20.5 percent.

The upper market segments have been particularly hardest hit by declining sales. Upper large car sales are down 63 percent for November, down 40.1 percent YTD, and Luxury SUVs are down 40.2 percent for November, down 7.2 percent for the year.

These results make ‘monkeys’ of the Federal Government’s tax revenue projections when introducing the luxury car tax.

These figures however, while grim, may not be quite as bad as some are suggesting.

October figures contained a lot of ‘dealer registrations’ which is done, often with incentives from the manufacturers, to try to hold the market up. So, some of that additional inventory carried by dealers, and included in October sales, may have eaten into November sales and artificially pushed them down further. (You will have noticed there have been a lot of ‘demonstrator sales’ on at the moment.)

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It should also be noted that sales are likely to go close to a million for the year, short of a complete stall in showroom traffic in December. Things are tightening, but a million sales in this market does not have the smell of recession about it.

A looming problem at the moment is the unknown number of new car dealers who have not secured floorplan finance, following GMAC and GE’s announced intent to exit the market in the new year.

If numbers of dealers start falling over in January through lack of wholesale credit financing, this may really knock the sector about and seriously dent consumer confidence in the economy.

For car buyers, this news means it is the best time in years to buy a new car.