For a number of months, the Australian car market has been struggling under the weight of poor consumer confidence. However, a recent announcement from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) suggests the market is beginning to move in the right direction.Local consumers bought close to 95,000 new passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles in September. This represents an increase of 2.5 per cent over the same period in 2013.
It is interesting to note that this is the first positive result this year and signals the start of the warmer months where consumer are usually more willing to purchase a new vehicle.
Rise of the SUV
The bulk of the credit for this result must go the SUV sector. Strong all year, this is one area that has operated against the tide and in every category is showing positive growth.
In September, small SUVs were up 31.1 per cent on 12 months ago and medium SUVs are up by 17.4 per cent.
FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber suggested some reasons why this could be the case.
"The increase in SUV and light commercial vehicle purchases by private buyers is a reflection of the versatility these vehicles provide and the increasing range of SUVs and light commercial vehicles available in the market," he said.
This coincides with a recent Roy Morgan poll that revealed the number of people considering the purchase of an SUV has increased. Survey figures show this has risen more than 40 per cent since 2011 to more than 180,000.
Industry Director of Automotive at Roy Morgan Research Jordan Pakes explained that many consumers want to downsize vehicles for a variety of reasons.
"With a number of Small SUVs on the market sharing platforms with their Small/Light car siblings, it appears that the allure of these generally 'newer', high-riding vehicles could be swaying some traditional Small/City Car buyers to consider an SUV instead," he stated.
Mr Pakes also mentioned a large range of new small SUVs that are set to hit the market in 2015 and said this will extend the popularity of this category over the coming years.
Most popular vehicle and brand?
For the first time in many months, Toyota did not claim the double in both the most popular vehicle and brand.
The FCAI revealed that the Mazda3 was the winner in September, clocking more than 4,000 sales. The vehicle was followed by last month's winner the Toyota Corolla (3,893), the Toyota Hilux (3,430) and the Holden Commodore (2,616).
Toyota did, however, claim the overall market share lead for another month with 18.8 per cent of all sales. Mazda finished second with 10 per cent, while Hyundai rounded off the podium with 9.3 per cent share.
Vehicle sales by state
Although September saw Australia's car sales climb 2.5 per cent higher than last year, not all states and territories recorded such growth.
The Northern Territory (6.1 per cent), New South Wales (5.9 per cent), ACT (4.9 per cent), South Australia (4.3 per cent) and Queensland (2.1 per cent) all experienced solid growth during the month. Just Tasmania and Western Australia recorded negative figures this month.
Positive end of year?
These figures give the Australian car industry a welcome boost before the expected rush at the end of the year. While it will be hoped the hotter conditions spark a wave of buyers, the market is still facing a large deficit.
The country is around 18,000 units behind the same point last year and the expected boost won't close this gap. For car manufacturers, the focus will be to end the year on a high and start 2015 better than they did in 2014.