Tim O'Brien | Mar 3, 2010

VFACTS: IF YOU CAN'T HEAR the champagne corks popping over at Hyundai, you're under water, unconscious, or on the moon. While the rising market for February will have more than a few manufacturers whooping with glee - it's up 14.4 percent year-to-date (YTD) - the real story this month is Hyundai.

As a volume seller, its performance in achieving 70.9 percent growth in year-to-date sales in a total market that has grown by 14.4 percent YTD, is little short of amazing. Most ominously for other volume brands, Hyundai has achieved that growth on top of a strong performance in last year's comparatively weak market. Strong then, when others were weak, Hyundai's result is even more compelling now.

Sure, there are others that have achieved double digit growth (like Jeep, 73.1 percent YTD, Isuzu Ute, 104.9 percent, Lamborghini, 133.3 percent, Skoda, 89.3 percent, and even Ssangyong, 126.7 percent), but none are volume sellers and most barely bother the scorer, selling in the low hundreds.

You had your doubts the Koreans could do it? Toyota no longer doubts it. The ageing Getz, which, as TMR predicted early last year would overtake the Yaris (and did just that by mid-year), has retained its number one spot. And tradies have no doubts, they've voted with their wallets: the steamrolling iLoad has rolled right over the HiAce and now sits at number one.

The i30 also continues to strengthen its position, up 128.2 percent in a small car market that was mostly down.

Interestingly, in the small car market, the only cars that were up against last year's sales was the Corolla (up 4.0 percent YTD), Lancer (up 13.5 percent YTD), Mazda3 (up 8.2 percent YTD), Cerato (up 29.5 percent YTD), i30 (up 128.2 percent YTD) and Elantra (up 11.4 percent YTD).

Every other sub-$40k small car was down - Golf, Impreza, Civic, Focus: all took a thumping, some worse than others. Year-to-date, the small car sector was up a dismal 5.8 percent. The move in the market away from small cars is a trend that few will have predicted

In overall new vehicle sales ranking, Hyundai has inched ahead of Ford and Mazda (by a couple of hundred sales) to hold third spot behind a still strong Toyota and an improving Holden (which, achieving 21.9 percent growth YTD, has outperformed the market average - unlike Ford and Toyota, both of whom slipped against the market). Holden might be proof of the benefit of strong marketing and cleverly targeted products.

So, here's the top ten vehicle manufacturers for the month of February 2010 (figures also include light commercial, SUV, and ute sales):

  1. Toyota: 16,814 sales, up 13.3 percent YTD
  2. Holden: 11,213 sales, up 21.9 percent YTD
  3. Hyundai, 7208 sales, up 70.9 percent YTD
  4. Ford: 7148 sales, up 3.4 percent YTD
  5. Mazda: 7003 sales, up 5.8 percent YTD
  6. Mitsubishi: 5026 sales, up 8.0 percent YTD
  7. Nissan: 4596 sales, up 6.6 percent YTD
  8. Subaru: 3278 sales, up 11.3 percent YTD
  9. Honda: 3102 sales, down 27.8 percent YTD
  10. Volkswagen: 2998 sales, up 16.7 percent YTD

And what else is happening? Well, besides the tears before bedtime in the small car sector, those selling SUVs are also popping corks. The compact SUV sector (Ford Escape, Honda CRV etc.) is up 31.8 percent YTD (and up 42.7 percent for the month of February against February 2009).

Medium SUVs are up 27.1 percent YTD, and large SUVs up 13.0 percent YTD.

The question of course is whether those buyers deserting small cars are heading into small and medium SUVs, and whether the trend is now an unstoppable wave. Certainly, the scale of the growth in sales for some of the stronger performers - in both the compact and medium sectors - would suggest that there is a permanent market shift afoot.

Putting both compact and medium SUV sectors together, here's the top ten:

  1. Holden Captiva: 1315 sales in February, up 33.3 percent YTD
  2. Toyota Prado: 1194 sales, up 16.1 percent YTD
  3. Toyota Kluger: 1041 sales, up 17.0 percent YTD
  4. Subaru Forester: 1001 sales, up 0.3 percent YTD
  5. Toyota RAV4: 977 sales, up 0.7 percent YTD
  6. Mazda CX7: 944 sales, up 209.1 percent YTD
  7. Ford Territory: 867 sales, up 9.7 percent YTD
  8. Honda CR-V: 698 sales, down 25.6 percent YTD
  9. Subaru Outback: 621 sales, up 133.6 percent YTD
  10. Hyundai Tucson, 615 sales, up 7.5 percent YTD

Lastly, with the sound of corks popping echoing in most new car showrooms, spare a thought for Honda - down 27.8 percent. It must be scratching its head wondering why having arguably the best car in the medium sector, the Accord Euro, and strong products everywhere, is not translating to showroom traffic.

And finally, dismally but not unexpectedly, any Saab salespeople still in employment would be advised to stay away from the knife drawer. The rudderless and orphaned Saab brand sold no cars anywhere in Australia in February, and has sold one (that's a solitary single unit) for the year. That buyer should be tracked down and given a prize for bravery.