march 2023 new vehicle sales – a changing of the guard?

Monthly vehicle sales increased in March, up 12% from February as EVs and Chinese manufacturers continued their strong start to 2023. Despite this, it was still the weakest March in the last decade (excluding the COVID-impacted 2020) with manufacturers facing ongoing issues around vehicle availability.

March Top 5

Supply Chain Issues

Manufacturers are still working to catch up with orders in the face of ongoing supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages, but some have been hit harder than others. This has had serious consequences for Toyota, with wait times on core models still sitting around the 6-month mark. Of the top 10 manufacturers this quarter, Toyota’s average wait time is more than a month beyond the closet competitor, forcing customers to start looking to alternate makes and models.

The average wait time for a new car in Australia is 126 days, compared to Toyota’s average of 230 days. At a model level, RAV4 purchasers face a 218 day wait, with the Corolla and Landcruiser averaging over 260 days. We can see the impact of this on sales, with RAV4 sales down 44% YTD and Corolla down 34% YTD.

Brand Wars Continue

The top 5 manufacturers for the first quarter of 2022 were Toyota, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Kia and Hyundai, owning 56% of new vehicle sales. While the 2023 top 5 is mostly unchanged (with the exception of Ford replacing Mitsubishi), their share of sales has dropped to 45%.

This is being driven by different sectors of the market. On the one hand, EV giant Tesla and relative newcomer (but global EV specialist) BYD have captured an additional 8,088 sales YoY in the first quarter. Other Chinese brands are also recording strong growth, with GWM increasing sales YoY by 5,308k vehicles off the back of 20 day delivery timeframes, while LDV (up almost 1,500 sales) and MG (up over 1,000 units) are both also performing well. At the premium end of the market, VW Group brands Volkswagen (up 2,823 sales), Audi (up 2,090 sales) and Skoda (up 498 sales) are growing volumes YoY, with new entrant Cupra also booking 808 sales through the first quarter.

What’s next?

These trends suggest more change is coming, with EV growth continuing, and customers willing to prioritise availability over brand loyalty. There’s no question Toyota can and will recover, but it’s a question of how long it takes, and which other manufacturers take the opportunity to boost sales.

Only time will tell, but it will be one hell of a ride!

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