Are Passenger Cars on the way to extinction? Not so fast …

If you’re a keen observer of VFACTS or traffic, you’d be forgiven for assuming that every Australian will soon be driving an SUV or dual-cab.

If you’re a keen observer of VFACTS or traffic in the daily work commute, you’d be forgiven for assuming that every Australian will be driving an SUV or dual-cab, sooner rather than later. That’s the logical conclusion from the monthly new car registration report – not to mention the plethora of SUV models debuting at overseas motor shows and destined for Australian showrooms, roads and carsales.com.au in the near future.

Once unimaginable, consumer tastes have dramatically changed away from stalwart segments of the Australian new car market - perhaps irreversibly.  New and forthcoming SUV and utility models such as the Toyota CH-R, Hyundai Kona and Mercedes X-Class are attracting the attention and impassioned debate on Facebook, in cafes and pubs and the comments section on motoring.com.au, which was once reserved for home-grown RWD sedan favourites; the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

Even the motorsport industry has taken note, with diesel-powered ‘Superutes’ hitting the race track in 2018 to complement the traditional Supercars championship.

But carsales.com.au’s own new and near-new car data can often reveals more than meets the eye in a simple glance at VFACTS. It is clear from the latest views and enquiry data from Australia’s number 1 auto classifieds website that interest in specific passenger cars remains strong - despite segment decline and desire to keep up with the latest SUV parked in the driveways of the Joneses.


Interactive analysis:
SUVs - BUYER ENQUIRY ANALYSIS - 12 MONTH COMPARISON


Storied small car nameplates remain popular

Perhaps a surprise to some, in the last five years the Small Car segment has lost almost 20 per cent of its volume. What was a 255,000 unit strong segment five years ago is currently at a run-rate that indicates that less than 210,000 will be registered in 2017.

Nevertheless, it remains a cutthroat segment as the OEMs battle for the Australian private buyer dollar and in many cases their first chance of establishing brand loyalty with first-time buyers.

Volkswagen Golf continues to march on. Ongoing fallout from #Dieselgate notwithstanding, it seems Australian small car buyers kick-off their purchase journey by evaluating Volkswagen’s evergreen hatch. Already the leader in terms of views and leads, even those numbers have increased over the past 12 months.

Will Golf 7.5 continue the strong momentum?

You’d be brave to bet against it.

A similar story can be witnessed at the premium end with the Audi A3, buoyed by strong views and leads results

Another positive mover of late is Hyundai’s i30 (with further scope to grow with the impressive all-new PD model), while Toyota’s Corolla, in spite of grabbing good registration numbers, is heading the other way in terms of views and enquiry with private buyers.


Interactive analysis:
SMALL, LIGHT AND MICRO CARS - BUYER ENQUIRY ANALYSIS - 12 MONTH COMPARISON


Prestige brands power medium segment

Prestige offerings - chiefly Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class - now underpin medium class sales. Through accessibly priced C200 and C250 models, sales of the model have increased and share of the segment has doubled over the April 2016-April 2017 period.

At the other end of the spectrum, consumer preference for medium-sized SUVs is best illustrated by the decline in interest of the Toyota Camry - once a family-favourite, now relegated to fleet pillar. Although registrations and run rate have grown (as Toyota winds up its domestic manufacturing operations), popularity on-site at carsales.com.au - an accurate indicator for private consumer interest - has more than halved and leads are barely a third of what they were.

It must be noted though that impending extinction does not automatically equate to declining interest. As we head towards the closure of Holden’s local production facilities this October, interest in Commodore and especially the bellowing V8 variants, remains remarkably strong and as a consequence sales stable and its segment share is increasing. The Ford Falcon - despite being out of production for more than six months - continues to attract a surprising share of new car leads on carsales.com.au.

Game changers on the horizon?

carsales data and VFACTS metrics both point to the continued dominance of SUVs and dual-cabs in the near future, but there is enough exciting passenger car metal in the pipeline to keep consumer interest alight.

Kia’s first foray into RWD performance sedans; the Stinger, Hyundai’s new i30 range, Volkswagen’s next-gen Polo are obvious candidates to buck the trend in their declining segments and capture more views and leads on carsales.com.au, and consequently sales over the coming months.

Time will tell and the millions of daily consumer interactions with carsales.com.au will paint the picture on the next wave of passenger cars ready to arrest consumer attention and spending from SUVs and dual-cabs.