The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has published its complete new vehicle sales data for 2020 – a year most drastically effected by the economic implications, nationwide and state-specific lockdowns, and production issues tied to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although 2019 had been a year in downturn, with sales down 7.8 percent compared to in 2018, 2020 has seen sales fall below the million-mark to 916,968 vehicles, marking a not-unexpected 13.7 percent decrease compared to in 2019.

However, there have been positive signs of growth towards the end of what was originally looking to be a wholly drastic year, with sales in November and December 2020 up 12.4 and 13.5 percent respectively compared to the same periods in 2019.

The Ford Ranger has been a consistently strong seller in recent years, even seeing a slight sales increase in 2020.

The Australian love affair with SUVs and utes continued to bloom this year, with SUVs now accounting for just under half of all new cars sold at 49.6 percent (up a noteworthy 4.1 percent) and the light commercial segment accounting for 22.4 percent of sales.

However, the broad passenger vehicle segment was the hardest hit this year – challenging economic times certainly haven’t had people looking to downsize as they did in the late noughties, it would seem – with its 24.2 percent overall market share marking a 5.5 percent decline, while overall sales figures for the segment were down a staggering 29.7 percent year-on-year.

SUVs

After a close race between the leading Mazda CX-5 and second-placed Toyota RAV4 in 2019, the tables turned drastically in the RAV4’s favour this year, with the new model outselling the Mazda by over 75 percent. The popular Hyundai Tucson managed to score a place in the top five this year as well, as the Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi ASX fell to sixth and seventh place respectively.

Worth noting here, as well, is that three of the top five sellers in the segment were Toyotas, with the ageing LandCruiser making a surprise appearance at fifth place. With rumours of the upcoming ‘300 Series’ switching to six or even four-cylinder powertrains, many buyers have clearly stuck to their word on rushing to buy the existing V8-powered 200 Series and 76 Series while they still can.

Top five best-selling SUVs in Australia during 2020:

  1. Toyota RAV4 – 38,537
  2. Mazda CX-5 – 21,979
  3. Toyota Prado – 18,034
  4. Hyundai Tucson – 15,789
  5. Toyota LandCruiser (wagon body styles) – 15,078

Passenger vehicles

Aside from the Kia Cerato overtaking the Mazda3 to claim third-place – something that could likely be chalked up to the new 3’s increased price tag as Mazda pushes the model further upmarket – not a whole lot changed in the passenger vehicle segment, with the top five sellers remaining the same as in 2019 aside from that one positional change, and the introduction of a new sedan variant of the i30 to a lineup that already included hatchback and Fastback body styles.

The most notable thing when it comes to this segment, ultimately, is the massive drop in overall sales for each of these models, with all down anywhere from 3041 units in the case of the Camry, to as much of a decrease as 10,276 units when it comes to the Mazda3.

Top five best-selling passenger vehicles in Australia during 2020:

  1. Toyota Corolla – 25,882
  2. Hyundai i30 – 20,734
  3. Kia Cerato – 17,559
  4. Mazda3 – 14,663
  5. Toyota Camry – 13,727

Light commercial vehicles

Not even a pandemic could slow the sales of utes in Australia, with the LCV segment still remaining a dominant force in 2020. While Toyota HiLux sales dipped slightly, it still clung onto first place, while the second-placed Ford Ranger even saw a slight increase in sales.

With Holden having gone the way of the dodo last year, the previously-popular Colorado disappeared from the top five as the model went into run-out, with the Isuzu D-Max – which saw the introduction of an all-new third-generation model in August – rising to fourth place, and the Nissan Navara managing to break into the top five as a result.

Top five best-selling light commercial vehicles in Australia during 2020:

  1. Toyota HiLux – 45,176
  2. Ford Ranger – 40,973
  3. Mitsubishi Triton – 18,136
  4. Isuzu D-Max – 15,062
  5. Nissan Navara – 11,486

The year’s wildcards: Plug-ins, and Chinese cars

Looking through the FCAI’s full report, there were two pieces of data that stood out as noteworthy, the first of which is that sales of plug-in vehicles (both PHEVs and BEVs) were on the rise.

Despite the controversial introduction of specific taxes on EV and PHEV ownership in South Australia and Victoria, EV sales were up 16.2 percent overall (1796 units) while PHEV sales rose by 18.2 percent (1685 units). Conventional hybrids outsold both considerably, however, largely down to the immense popularity of models such as the Toyota RAV4, Corolla, and Camry.

The other thing that stood out among this data was the massive rise in the sales of Chinese-made cars from the likes of MG, Haval, and GWM, as although figures have been on the up for some years now, they increased drastically in 2020.

With a total of 30,696 new Chinese cars sold this past year, it marks a whopping 70.9 percent year-on-year increase, making it the sixth-biggest manufacturer of cars sold in Australia behind the USA (33,731), Germany (58,558), South Korea (123,725), Thailand (213,456), and Japan (a leading 309,601 vehicles).

All together now…

Once again, the Toyota HiLux – leader of the LCV segment – led the market overall once again in 2020, with the Ford Ranger retaining second place behind it. Toyota’s RAV4 took out the bronze medal to round out the podium, stealing it from last year’s third-placed Corolla.

As you might expect, then, Toyota managed to be the top-selling manufacturer overall with a huge 22.3 percent market share, followed by Mazda (9.3 percent), Hyundai (7.1 percent), Ford (6.5 percent), and Mitsubishi (6.4 percent).

Despite the massive tumble the car market took this past year, the glimmer of hope at the end with a rise in sales during the final two months of the year may well be a sign of the market restrengthening in 2021, although it’s clear to say that, at this point, anything could happen between now and this same time next year.

Top 20 best-selling cars in Australia during 2020:

  1. Toyota HiLux – 45,176
  2. Ford Ranger – 40,973
  3. Toyota RAV4 – 38,537
  4. Toyota Corolla – 25,882
  5. Toyota LandCruiser (all body styles) – 25,142
  6. Mazda CX-5 – 21,979
  7. Hyundai i30 – 20,734
  8. Mitsubishi Triton – 18,136
  9. Toyota Prado – 18,034
  10. Kia Cerato – 17,559
  11. Hyundai Tucson – 15,789
  12. Isuzu D-Max – 15,062
  13. Mazda3 – 14,663
  14. Nissan X-Trail – 14,291
  15. Mitsubishi ASX – 14,056
  16. Mazda CX-3 – 13,953
  17. Toyota Camry – 13,727
  18. Hyundai Kona – 12,514
  19. Subaru Forester – 12,300
  20. Mitsubishi Outlander – 12,004
Latest posts by Patrick Jackson (see all)