Disclaimer: This data was obtained from the sources named in this article and is the latest available data as of February 2021. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.

Quick Stats

  • There were 916,968 new vehicles sold in Australia 2020
  • New car sales in Australia dropped by nearly 14% from 2019, making 2020 the lowest year for new car sales since 2003
  • SUVs accounted for 49.6% of new car sales in 2020
  • Electric cars continued to occupy more of Australia’s total new car market.

New car sales

From 2011 through to 2020, over 11 million new cars were sold in Australia. On average, the new car market saw year on year growth from 2011 onwards, however from 2017 to 2020, this trend has reversed. According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and CarAdvice, new car sales have not been this low in Australia since 2003.

Types of vehicles sold by class

Just under half of all new cars sold in Australia during 2020 were SUVs – up from 45.5% market share in 2019. All signs point to this trend continuing, meaning that 2021 could be the first year where SUVs occupy a majority of all new vehicle sales in Australia.

Despite occupying just 22.42% of our new car market, Australians’ rate of buying light commercial vehicles (LCVs) is the highest in the world. According to the Global Economy and Worldometers, we average around 1 LCV per 108 people. In the United States, their obsession with “pick-up trucks” only equates to around 1 LCV per 259 people. Our nearest competitors are Thailand (with 1 LCV per 130 people) and France (1 per 136 people).

Top 10 selling car brands in Australia

To little surprise, sales data provided by CarAdvice show that in early 2021, Toyota was leading the way for new car sales in Australia. However, the main takeaway from January 2021 data is that sales have increased significantly on January of the previous year. After a 17-year low in overall new car sales in 2020, the industry seems to be recovering.

The biggest winner from this list is Kia. Back in 2019, GoAuto were speculating as to whether it could potentially crack Australia’s top 5 brands in terms of sales. Looking at more historical data, CarExpert shows how in 2008, Hyundai was making nearly 3x as many sales as Kia each year. Today, the gap between the two Korean brands couldn’t be any narrower, with Kia recording greater sales across a few months of 2020.

Audi failed to feature in Australia’s top-selling brands, despite the success of the Q3. CarAdvice again found that from 2019 to 2020, it grew from 1.9% of SUV market share up to 10.5% market share. This was due to an 18.6% increase in sales, in a year most brands and models experienced a downturn. Audi also found success with the A1 in the passenger car class, but as a premium model, it couldn’t compete in sales with cheaper, more established options.

Top 10 selling new cars in Australia

Information sourced from carsguide.com.au shows that the two most popular cars both fall into the ‘light commercial’ category – proving Australians do love their LCVs. In good news for Toyota and Ford, the HiLux and Ranger are dominating the class – making up almost half of all light commercial vehicle purchases in 2020 between them.

The Toyota Corolla has been no stranger to Australia. CarAdvice reported that by the close of 2020, the Corolla had claimed its 8th straight year as Australia’s top-selling passenger car. However, this does include sales for both the hatch and sedan variations, and competitors such as the Hyundai i30 have previously branded their hatchbacks and sedans separately (the i30 used to be the hatchback, whereas the Elantra was the sedan). Hyundai have recently branded both as the ‘i30’, which could test the Corolla’s hold on the passenger car market by the end of 2021.

Elsewhere, the CX-5, Prado, Cerato and Tucson have all benefited from Australia’s current fondness for SUVs – but the real winner in 2020 was the RAV4. Compared to 2019, the plucky Toyota increased in sales by 58.8% - a whopping improvement during an otherwise slow year.

New car sales by state

Sales (January 2021)

% change (compared to January 2020)

After a reasonably slow 2020, each state showed strong signs of growth in early 2021. Queensland achieved the greatest increase in January sales, selling 2,549 more new vehicles than a year prior. New South Wales and Western Australia also showed positive signs for 2021, increasing in sales by 2,129 and 1,638 respectively.

Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania showed the lowest levels of growth – each increasing by less than 400 new cars compared to January 2020.

Hybrid/electric vehicles

A report released in 2020 by the Australian Electric Vehicle Council showed that in the first half of 2020, sales for electric cars had been anything but disrupted. In 2019, electric vehicle sales increased by over 200%, reaching 6,718 total sales across Australia. By the midpoint of 2020, 3,226 electric vehicles had been sold – roughly consistent with the rate of sales in 2019. Given the new car industry decreased by 14% in 2020, maintaining consistent sales is a sign that electric cars are only going to increase in popularity.

International new car sales

*Predicted figure, released by Statista in February 2021.

Australia isn’t the only nation showing a downturn in new car sales. In fact, the same trend has been shown on a global scale, with Statista recording similar trends throughout the 2010s. The current prediction is that 2020’s complete new car sales will mirror the lows of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

This phenomenon took hold of Western Europe in even greater fashion, with Forbes noting that the region experienced their lowest new car sales since 1985. This was due to several factors, such as the uncertainty around Brexit, and the Italian ban on auto sales (for anyone except those replacing a crashed car, or essential workers). Across the entirety of Europe, caradvice noted that in the first 4 months of 2020, new car sales had dropped by a staggering 74%.

In Asia, the decline in sales wasn’t quite as sharp. Data provided by Statista predicted that new car sales would only decrease by 18%, compared to 2019 figures.

See more of Budget Direct’s car research and statistics pieces.

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