By Lucy Hughes Jones
(Australian Associated Press)
The automotive industry is in 2016 gunning for a seventh straight year of more than one million new car sales, after setting another record in 2015.
Motorists bought more cars than ever before last year, snapping up more than one million new vehicles for the sixth successive year.
Australians purchased 1.155 million new vehicles in 2015, eclipsing the previous full-year record of 1.136 million sales set in 2013, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) data show.
FCAI chief executive Tony Weber expects a further 1.1 million new vehicles to be sold in the new year.
“When you have had a record year three years out of the last four, you wonder where the market will obviously go,” he said.
“(But) we don’t see anything on the horizon that will slow sales in terms of the broader economy.”
Mr Weber said the industry outperformed general economic conditions last year, with sales up 3.8 per cent compared to 2014.
“This is an outstanding result in that environment,” he said.
And the falling exchange rate won’t drive prices up for consumers, with competition red hot and interest rates at all time lows, Mr Weber said.
“That’s what’s driving the market. Competition is so strong prices remain low despite the depreciation of the Australian dollar,” he said.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said car affordability is at the best levels ever recorded.
“Car affordability is even stronger on a `quality adjusted’ basis – vehicles built in 2015 are far superior to those sold in the early 1970s,” he said.
It would take someone on the average wage to work for 23.8 weeks to purchase a new Ford Falcon in 2015, whereas it would have taken 31.6 weeks in 2010, CommSec research shows.
Mr James said vehicle sales should remain solid in 2016, with employment rising, record wealth levels and the Reserve Bank likely to remain on the interest rate sidelines.
“The area to watch is the housing market, as softer home prices could restrain car buying enthusiasm,” he said.
Encouragingly, it’s not just so-called `standard’ vehicles being sold, but luxury rides are taking a bigger share of total sales, Mr James said.
Sports Utility Vehicle sales continued to skyrocket in 2015, making it the fastest growing sector for a sixth year in a row.
SUVs now account for around 35.4 per cent of the market, up from 31.7 per cent in 2014.
And Toyota continued its reign as Australia’s favourite in 2015, posting the company’s 13th straight year as the market leader and 19th time overall.