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Economic downturn still badly hurting Australia’s new car sales

It’s nearly four months into the year and new car sales in Australia are not in a good way. The figures have been dropping steadily since 2017, but now each month is nearly 10 percent lower than the same month last year and dealerships around the country are starting to feel it.

A country’s economy is like an acrobatic human pyramid – all it takes is one person to get a foot in the eye and it all starts coming apart. In this case, the foot in the eye is falling property prices, and it’s easy enough to see why an owner would want to spend less on other expensive things, like cars. A looming federal election doesn’t help either.

The total number of new cars bought in 2018 was 1,153,111, which in turn, was three percent down from 2017. So far this year it’s even less, but it’s not all bad news.

Our car market still remains one of the best in the world. For what is basically a big desert with some high rises on the side, Australia has a genuinely impressive relationship with the car. In the last seven years, a country of 25 million has managed to buy over 7.6 million cars. And according to the ABS, for every 1,000 people there are 775 cars. There’s less Vegemite, probably.

We used to pride ourselves on the big sedans like the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, but they’ve been all but killed by soccer mums in their SUVs. The three best-selling cars in Australia at the moment are all dual-cab utilities, the only segment not to drop in sales.

What’s taking the hardest hit are the luxury cars. In 2000, they took up 18 percent of the market, and by last year, that had grown to 35 percent. Now, it’s going back the other way.

It so happens that all this is going on at the same time Maserati chose to open two new dealerships in Australia, one at the Gold Coast and another in Canberra. Which begs the question: Is that a bit like setting up an antique stall in an African village?


Feature Audio story: Maserati in Australia 

The Maserati car dealership in Philip has been up and running for a few months now, and despite dropping new car sales, it’s fairing well.

James Coleman has more…

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