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Brand New Holden Commodore

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Tim O'Brien | Apr 3, 2009

The VFACTS figures for March 2009 are in and despite the overall Australian new car market having fallen by 19.2 percent compared to March sales 2008, sales of the two most popular locally-built large cars are doing okay.

Down, but definitely not out.

Compared to March 2008 sales figures, the Falcon and Commodore were down 14.3 percent and 11.1 percent respectively - bettering the performance of the market by a reasonable margin.

In year-to-date figures, sales are down by 13.3 percent for the Commodore and down just 1.4 percent for the Falcon (but Commodore was very strong in 2008, while Falcon was on the fag end of the BF then).

Not a bad result, considering every other model in the under-$70,000 large car segment was down by far more: Toyota's Aurion, down 51.3 percent for March 2009 compared to march 2008, Nissan Maxima down 70.8 percent (but a new model coming soon) and Accord down 42.5 percent.

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Falcon and Commodore fared even better than Mazda6, down 17.5 percent against March 2008 (that is a surprising result and possibly a little worrying for Mazda); Mondeo, down 18.8 percent; Camry (four cylinder), down 35 percent; and VW Passat, down 51.3 percent. The Accord Euro is running against the trend, being up 1.4 percent in March 2009.

There were a few winners: Skoda's Octavia, Hyundai i30, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger, Peugeot 308, Fiat Ritmo, Hyundai Getz, Honda Jazz and Ford Fiesta all notched up positive growth in year-to-date and monthly sales.

Of these, some - like the Ritmo, Sebring, Avenger and even Octavia - are off such small sales bases that one good 'discount sale' weekend can distort the trend result for the model.

Sales of diesel cars were also up for the month of March, with fleet owners and commercial customers buying more diesels than at the same time last year.

But don't be fooled by that little blip in one part of fleet sales.

The big story in the sales results is not that private buyers have deserted the market. Sure, there are less private buyers and those making their ways into showrooms are crunching dealer margins - everyone knows there are good deals to be done.

No, it is the fleet buyers and corporates who have vacated the market and left the biggest hole in 2009 sales.

Taking petrol powered passenger cars, for instance, private sales were down 8.7 percent for the month of March, fleet sales down 29.8 percent. In petrol SUVs: private sales, down 9.7 percent, fleet sales down 37.6 percent. In light commercial (petrol): private sales down 16.5 percent, fleet down 31.6 percent.

Lastly (and how do you figure this?), LPG and hybrids fell markedly in sales. Hybrids - ok they're kind of expensive - but LPG? Seems the market doesn't know when it's onto a good thing.

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