The 2013 That Was
Part 1: Australia's Major New Passenger Car Launches
It was a tumultuous year for the Australian automotive market, especially so for the home-grown brands.
In the shadow of both Ford and Holden announcing their departures as manufacturers, this curious overpopulated market has seen a no-holds-barred battle between carmakers - across all segments - and heavy discounting in the battle for buyer dollars.
Official VFACTS sales figures for the year are still to come, but November numbers show the market has already shot past the million mark with 1,039,471 sales by the end of the month - up 2.2 percent on the same period in 2012.
SUVs remain a driving force in the market with an 8.3 percent year-to-date growth (November data), bouncing back from a temporary sales dip driven by proposed - then scrapped with the change of government in Canberra - changes to the Fringe Benefits Tax.
In 2012, the Australian market achieved a record 1.11 million sales. Can 2013 go one better? At this stage, the odds look good. (Watch for our report in January.)
The market also saw serious upheaval in manufacturing, spurred by tough conditions and political shifts on the back of this year's federal election... but we'll return to that in another article.
What Landed in 2013?
This year brought a hefty list of new models, styling and technology updates, price cuts and repositioning.
We've noted a handful of key launches below, but you can catch the full list on our 2013MY Launches page.
Small & Light Passenger Cars - Click For Full List
At the small and light end of the market, Mitsubishi's reborn Mirage hatch debuted in January, its $12,990 drive-away launch price making it one of Australia's most affordable new cars.
Adding to the list of returned badges was Nissan's Pulsar sedan, launched in late January with a starting price of $19,990. The sedan was joined by its hatch sibling - and the new SSS sports model - in June.
Honda revised its Civic Hatch petrol range in January, adding the new diesel model in June. Likewise, the Jazz Hybrid finally made its Australian debut in February. In October, the carmaker introduced new pricing for the Civic sedan.
Holden's Cruze range was given a significant refresh in March, benefiting from sharpened pricing and substantial mechanical updates.
Mercedes-Benz made its return to the small car market with the new A-Class hatch in March, undercutting premium rivals by around $4000 with a $35,600 starting price.
The all-new and significantly improved Kia Cerato hit Australia this year, starting with the sedan in April and rounding out the passenger range with the hatch in August.
The Golf's upmarket cousin, the all-new Audi A3, also debuted in Australia this year, arriving in five-door Sportback form in May. The new model landed with an A-Class rivalling $35,600 price.
Fiat's 500 hatch, now back under factory control, debuted again with a revamped line-up in June and a very sharp $14,000 drive-away price.
BMW also moved to compete with the new A-Class in June, cutting the 1 Series hatch's entry price from $37,300 to $35,600. A range of new standard features were also added.
Renault's stylish new Clio five-door light hatch landed in September, debuting with the $16,790 Authentique and topping out with the $23,290 Dynamique auto.
Mercedes-Benz took another swipe at the small-car market in October, debuting its coupe-like CLA small sedan with a $49,900 starting price.
Late in November, Skoda's new 'small-but-medium' Octavia range finally hit Australia, launching in sedan and wagon form from $21,690.
And, in early December, Proton launched its new Suprima S in Australia, priced from $21,790.
SUVs - Click For Full List
The booming SUV market kicked off 2013 with an update to the Subaru Outback, which saw prices cut by around $4000. A second update, with new rugged styling features, followed in September.
SsangYong updated its Korando range in late January, adding a petrol option and new drive-away pricing for the improved small SUV.
Late January and early February brought the launch of Subaru's new Forester, replacing the once best-selling third-generation model.
February also saw the launch at last of Nissan's new Patrol, arriving some three years after its global debut. Priced from $82,200, the new Patrol is offered with one V8 petrol engine only.
Fiat's seven-seat Freemont SUV arrived in April, launching with a $27,000 drive-away starting price.
Later that month, the new Ford Kuga arrived to replacing its ageing predecessor, kicking off with the $27,990 Ambiente model.
Mercedes' big new GL SUV launched in May, opening with the $129,900 GL 350 BlueTEC and topping out with the hugely powerful - and expensive - GL 63 AMG at $214,900.
The biggest - quite literally - SUV launch of June however was the new Range Rover Sport, boasting an all-new aluminium platform and a starting price of $102,800.
Also in July came Jeep's facelifted and made-over Grand Cherokee range, an update headlined by the addition of an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Holden launched its new Trax crossover in August, debuting as one of the most affordable offerings in the compact/light SUV segment.
Audi's refreshed Q5 landed in September, bringing a mild styling update and around $3000 in new standard features. The mental-as-anything RSQ3 followed in October, bringing hot-hatch performance to the compact SUV range.
The light SUV market got another boost in October with Peugeot's new 2008, arriving to undercut most of its rivals...
...and match the Nissan Juke, which hit Australia later that month. Both carried a $21,990 starting price.
The SUV launches rolled on in October, with the overhauled and facelifted Volvo XC60 range debuting at $56,990 - a $1500 increase over its predecessor.
Rounding out a big month was 1) Nissan's all-new Pathfinder, arriving with a new philosophy, new technologies and a number of handsome price cuts.
SUV launches showed no signs of slowing down in November, with the updated Toyota Prado bringing new styling and - depending on the model - price hikes as high as $1455.
Mazda's CX-5 also landed a less comprehensive update in November.
The all-new BMW X5 finally hit Australia in November, launching with the new sDrive25d at $82,900 and topping out with the M50d diesel performance hero at $147,900.
Ford's new $20,790 EcoSport rounded out November's launches, arriving as a new price king to tackle the 2008, Juke and Trax.
Lastly, Suzuki's SX4-replacing S-Cross - described by local boss Tony Devers as "a hatch, a crossover hatch" landed in early December, priced at $22,990.
Sedans and Wagons: Medium/Large - Click For Full List
The ever-popular medium and large sedan/wagon markets also took on a number of new contenders this year.
Audi followed the A6 update with the launch of the RS 4 Avant performance wagon in February, priced at $149,400 plus on-roads.
Elsewhere in prestige circles, Lexus lobbed its overhauled LS range into Australia, bringing new looks, new technology and a welcome price drop.
New styling, impressive new standard equipment and significantly sharpened pricing accompanied the launch of Holden's standard-bearer.
Months since have brought news of Holden's exit from Australian manufacturing, but the VF Commodore will remain a shining light for Australian know-how.
Moving into June, Holden followed the VF launch with the imported Malibu sedan, debuting at $28,490.
Attention moved back to the prestige market later that week, with the local launch of the comprehensively updated Mercedes-Benz E-Class range, headlined by the hero E 63 AMG S model. The E 300 Hybrid followed in July.
In July, Lexus added the brand-new new IS sedan to its local range, taking on BMW's 3 Series with a $55,900 starting price.
Audi bulked up its A6 range with the new RS 6 Avant hero wagon in July, promising 412kW and a huge 700Nm for those willing to part with $225,000 plus on-roads.
In August, BMW announced updating pricing and features for its 3 Series midsized sedan and wagon.
Infiniti announced a range of price cuts across its Australian line-up in September, ahead of the local launch of its new Q50 sedan. (That was scheduled to occur in "late 2013", but now looks to be set for 2014.)
Also in October came Volvo's updated S60 and V60 models, landing styling and technology revisions in-line with the refreshed XC60 SUV.
Rounding out the year's sedan introductions was Mercedes-Benz with its big S-Class limo in November, bringing a haul of impressive new technologies and an even more luxurious cabin than ever before.
STILL TO COME:
- Movement And Shaking In Industry And Government
- Biggest Global Unveilings And What's To Come In 2014