According to VFACTS figures released today by The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the Australian new car market recorded 81,690 sales in March, a drop of 17.9 per cent when compared to the corresponding month last year.
The decline in sales is largely attributed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy.
March is traditionally an important month for new car sales with plenty of deals as it represents the end of the Japanese financial year.
The March result represents the 24th consecutive month of declining sales as the market deals with a wide range of environmental, political and economic factors.
Interestingly, March 2020 had the same number of selling days as March 2019 (25.5) with the figures showing a decrease of 696.2 vehicle sales per day.
Cumulatively, after the first quarter of 2020, the sales tally sits at 233,361 units, down 13.1 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Tony Weber, chief executive of the FCAI, said that despite the difficult conditions, numerous automotive dealerships around Australia remained open.
“Many dealerships have opted to remain open to maintain support for customers, particularly from a service perspective, during this difficult period.
“Of particular importance are first responder and essential services vehicles.  We must keep these vehicles on the road to ensure our communities continue to function and remain safe.
“In addition, we need to ensure those who physically attend their workplace can travel safely.  The motor vehicle is a safe form of transport during the pandemic, allowing occupants to preserve their personal distance from other commuters.
“Within dealerships, customer safety is of the highest priority, and automotive brands have initiated a variety of enhanced hygiene protocols and contactless consultations to maintain personal distance,” Mr Weber said.
Of the 81,690 sales, 39,171 were SUVs (48.0 per cent market share), 21,777 were passenger vehicles (26.7 per cent market share) and 18,162 were light commercial vehicles (22.2 per cent market share). 
All segments experienced significant drops, passenger cars fell by 7222 sales (-24.9 per cent), SUVs shed 6489 sales (-14.2 per cent), and light commercials dropped 715 vehicle sales (-21.7 per cent).
Remarkably, Toyota not only kept its firm grip on the top spot, the brand also managed 1.6 per cent growth.
Rounding out the top three were Mazda with 6819 sales (down 29.1 per cent) and Mitsubishi with 6002 sales (down a massive 40.8 per cent).
Kia also continues its run of form to increase sales by 6.6 per cent (5654), in the process it outsold sister brand Hyundai for the first time.
On the back of big discounts, Holden finished in sixth spot with 4992 sales, up 30.2 per cent when compared to March 2019.
Plenty of smaller brands managed to defy the market, Haval was up 131.5 per cent (213 sales), Ram improved by 30.3 per cent (262 sales), Peugeot climbed 47.3 per cent (162 sales), while supercar maker McLaren moved 14 cars, an increase of 55.6 per cent.
The top-selling vehicle in March was the Toyota HiLux with 3556 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger (3108 sales), Toyota RAV4 (2991 sales), Toyota Corolla (2812 sales) and the Holden Colorado (2391 sales).
A full segment by segment breakdown is included below.
Top 10 selling new vehicles - March 2020
Toyota HiLux – 3556
Ford Ranger – 3108
Toyota RAV4 – 2991
Hyundai i30 – 1856
Kia Cerato – 1841
Mazda CX-5 – 1734
Top 10 selling vehicle brands - March 2020
Toyota – 17,583
Mazda – 6819
Mitsubishi – 6002
Kia – 5654
Hyundai – 530
Holden – 4992
Ford – 4857
Nissan – 3501
Honda – 3144
Subaru – 3024
Segment breakdown
Micro cars: Kia Picanto (365), Fiat 500 (40), Mitsubishi Mirage (34)
Light cars: Toyota Yaris (721), Kia Rio (642), MG 3 (631)
Small cars: Toyota Corolla (2812), Hyundai i30 (1856), Kia Cerato (1841)
Small over $40k: Mercedes A-Class (843), Audi A3 (169), BMW 1 Series (167)
Medium cars: Toyota Camry (1332), Mazda 6 (152), Skoda Octavia (134)
Medium over $60k: BMW 3 Series (218), Mercedes C-Class (200), Mercedes CLA (190)
Large cars: Kia Stinger (175), Holden Commodore (95), Skoda Superb (13)
Large over $70k: Mercedes E-Class (56), BMW 5 Series (48), Audi A6 (22)
Upper large cars: Chrysler 300 (18), BMW 6 Series GT (45), Mercedes S-Class (8)
People movers: Kia Carnival (475), Honda Odyssey (130), LDV G10 (55)
Sports cars: Ford Mustang (309), BMW 2 Series (38), Toyota 86 (38)
Sports over $80k: Mercedes C-Class two-door (107), Lexus RC (28), BMW 4 Series (16)
Sports over $200k: Porsche 911 (39), McLaren (14), Ferrari (13)
Light SUV: Mazda CX-3 (1052), Holden Trax (815), Hyundai Venue (349)
Small SUV: Mitsubishi ASX (1643), Hyundai Kona (1006), Honda HR-V (946)
Small SUV over $40k: Mercedes GLA (339), Audi Q3 (254), BMW X1 (190)
Medium SUV: Toyota RAV4 (2991), Mazda CX-5 (1734), Nissan X-Trail (1323)
Medium SUV over $60k: Mercedes GLC (338), BMW X3 (329), Lexus NX (266)
Large SUV: Toyota Prado (1407), Toyota Kluger (833), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (670)
Large SUV over $70k: Mercedes GLE (252), BMW X5 (189), Range Rover Sport (177)
Upper large SUV: Toyota LandCruiser (1264), Nissan Patrol (295), Mercedes GLS (79)
Light buses: Toyota HiAce (203), Mercedes Sprinter (11), Renault Master (10)
Vans under 2.5t: Volkswagen Caddy (100), Renault Kangoo (15), Peugeot Partner (15)
Vans 2.5-3.5t: Toyota HiAce (505), Hyundai iLoad (280), Ford Transit Custom (142)
4×2 utes: Toyota HiLux (752), Isuzu D-Max (408), Mitsubishi Triton (231)
4×4 utes: Ford Ranger (2947), Toyota HiLux (2804), Holden Colorado (2186)
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