VFACTS SALES FIGURES for June 2009 contain a few surprises, not the least the strength of the recovery in the light commercial market.
This segment, it would seem, is being fuelled strongly by the Federal Government's 50 percent tax rebate on equipment purchases to eligible small businesses. And while it's hard to say it is propping up the market, it is certainly helping.
But more on that later. There are other interesting currents at work in a car market that, while down, has proven remarkably resilient.
In the light car segment, as we predicted last month, the Getz - with 2,263 sales for June - has knocked off the Yaris for number one spot.
Getz sales were up 25.9 percent against June 2008, and up 8.3 percent year-to-date (YTD). The Yaris, nearing the end of its model cycle, notched up 2194 sales for June, down 20.8 percent against June 2008, and down 26.3 percent YTD.
Interestingly, in this segment, Holden's Barina with 903 sales for June, is still out-selling the brilliant Fiesta with 753 sales (what's going on there?). Encouragingly for Ford, the Fiesta was up 33.7 percent against June 2008 sales, and up 12.6 percent YTD.
Light cars in total are holding up well; down just 6.3 percent against June 2008, and down just 12.4 percent YTD.
What you have got to remember though is that Australian sales last year got out of the blocks like a greyhound. Sales boomed in this market until the third quarter (that's when Lehman Brothers Bank collapsed in the US and the whole world suddenly said, "Oh crap... this is serious.")
The small car segment - the category for Ford's Focus, Mazda3, Cerato, Lancer, etc. - is also holding up, if not prospering. Total sales were down 10.5 percent for the month against June 2008, and down 16.7 percent YTD.
The big success story in this segment is Hyundai's rampant i30 with 2742 sales for June, and up 86.2 percent YTD. It's in third position in the segment behind the Mazda3, with 3741 sales and up 4.2 percent YTD, and the top-dog, the Corolla, with 4066 sales (but down 28 percent YTD).
The i30's march up the table looks set to continue. It will be interesting to see how much the gap narrows on the Corolla and Mazda3 next month.
Not doing so well is the medium car market where Camry, Mazda6 and Accord Euro reside. The ho-hum performance of this segment is a tad surprising given the strong models. Although out-performing the total market, it's down 13.1 percent for June 2009 as against June 2008, and down 20.7 percent YTD.
Camry is killing all comers in this segment with a 32.2 percent market share and sales of 1783 for June (down 21 percent against June sales last year); Mazda6 is holding its own in position two with 948 sales (up 17.5 percent for the month but down 22.2 percent YTD).
Honda Accord is third in the segment with 625 sales, up 3.8 percent for the month, and up 21.7 percent YTD.
In this segment, the excellent Mondeo must be perplexing Ford with just 356 sales and down 20.4 percent YTD. (Ford, here's a bit of gratuitous advice... it's a marketing problem, the car is a cracker.) The Epica for Holden has stiffed with just 195 sales, down 6.5 percent YTD.
In large cars Commodore is number one with 4748 sales and 43.6 percent share of the segment. The amazing Commodore is up 11.1 percent for the month compared to June 2008, and down just 7.4 percent YTD.
This is a remarkable performance in the current market.
Falcon holds second spot with 3410 sales, down 2.1 percent for the month against June 2008, and down just 2.0 percent YTD. This is also a strong performance and perhaps an indicator that the trend away from local cars in recent years has now begun to trend back. Commodore and Falcon are winning hands-down in the segment.
Toyota may have something of a problem with Aurion - although still third in the segment. It notched up 1628 sales, but down 36.2 percent for the month, and down 42.1 percent YTD.
The total large car segment was down just 7.0 percent for the month compared to June 2008, and down 18.7 percent YTD.
The really big losers in the passenger car segment for June were the large SUVs - LandCruiser 200, Patrol, and the like. This segment was down 29.4 percent for the month compared to June 2008, and down 43.6 percent YTD.
Perhaps there are no surprises there given the upward pressure on fuel prices, which is likely to increasingly affect sales in coming months.
The huge winners, thanks to the Federal Government's 50 percent tax rebate package for new equipment purchases (including vehicle purchase), is the light commercial segment.
Small van sales were up 32 percent for the month; 4X2 utes, up 9.2 percent; 4X4s, up 18.1 percent; and small trucks (under 3.5 tonne GVM), up 15 percent for the month against June 2008.
That this segment of the market is still down 10.6 percent for the year, shows the scale of the turn-around since the investment tax-break package for eligible small businesses was announced in May. (Prior to the announcement, this segment was heading to a car crash.)
While Triton, Navara and all in the segment have benefitted from the package, HiLux - on a technicality - is king of the heap for Australian vehicle sales in June. With 2098 4X2 sales, and 2658 4X4 sales, making 4756 sales in total, HiLux pips Commodore's 4748 sales.
It is not the first time, but it's interesting none-the-less.
And the technicality? Well, it's just a badge win. Add Holden utility sales of 1577 for the month of June to Commodore's total... and, yes... Holden Commodore/Ute wins.