September saw a small decline in the sales of small passenger cars in Australia, which has taken some of the heat out of the booming Australian motor vehicle market - but not enough to throw it of course in the pursuit for the magic 1 million sales in a year record.
Official sales figures for September released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that the market grew by 3496 units or 4.4 per cent compared to the same month last year.
All up 2007 has seen year-to-date market growth of 8.3 per cent and the FCAI have put the slightly lower September rate down to a softening in the passenger car market, which was down 1191 or 2.3 per cent.
In the face of higher fuel prices, small passenger cars were down 2002 sales or 10.0 per cent in September but the Light car segment was up by 1054 or 11.6 per cent.
"The decline in passenger car sales last month was narrowly based and entirely due to slower sales in the Small car segment. The overall motor vehicle market remains very buoyant and it is notable that sales of larger vehicles such as SUVs and four-wheel-drive utilities are up significantly, suggesting that consumer confidence remains high," said the chief executive of the FCAI, Andrew McKellar.
The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) market grew by 2666 sales or 20.2 per cent over September 2006 while the Light Truck market increased by 1581 or 12.6 per cent.
Within Light Trucks, the Pick-up/Cab-chassis 4x4 segment was up 1305 or 23.3 per cent. Toyota was (as is now expected) the bestselling brand in September with 18,358 vehicle sales, ahead of Holden with 11,632 and Ford coming in third with 8818 sales. Year-to-date Toyota is the top-selling brand with 174,866 - a lead of 62,563 over Holden.
The decline in sales of the small car segment is interesting given the gloom and doom prophecies surrounding the introduction of the VE Commodore large sedan in 2006 and the slow sales of large family cars as rising fuel prices took their toll in late 2006 and early 2007.
It would now appear that the consumer has adjusted rather well to higher fuel prices and for many a roomy chariot is still preferable.