Sales of European four-wheel drives big and small have plunged even though Australians have embraced off-road vehicles like never before.
The Toyota LandCruiser, RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 have dominated the sales charts during the pandemic as overseas holiday travel was banned and Australians looked to explore their nation instead.
Demand is so strong that secondhand models from Japan are often fetching higher prices than brand new ones.
In 2020, for the first time ever, SUVs with higher ground clearance comprised the majority of cars sold in Australia and continue to do so.
Sales of European four-wheel drives big and small have plunged even as Australians have embraced SUVs with the ability to go off road. Land Rover Discovery sales plummeted by 85 per cent with just 17 leaving showrooms in February compared with 112 in February 2020 – before a pandemic was declared
European SUV sales plunge
Land Rover Discovery: down 85 per cent to 17 sales
Jaguar F-Pace: down 81 per cent to 8
Land Rover Discovery Sport: down 71 per cent to 38
Volkswagen Tiguan: down 75 per cent to 118
Volkswagen Alltrack: down 100 per cent to zero
Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries sales data comparing February 2021 with February 2020
However, despite that move, sales of some European-designed SUVs have defied the market trend and actually fallen.
British four-wheel drives in particular were unpopular, despite having strong heritage value and name recognition.
Land Rover Discovery sales plummeted by 85 per cent – with just 17 leaving showrooms in February – compared with 112 in February 2020 before the pandemic was declared.
The four-wheel went from having one third of the prestige large SUV market to just winning less than 6 per cent of buyers.
While the new Land Rover Defender had cannibalised sales of the Discovery, EV Central editor Toby Hagon said reliability issues were a factor in Land Rover struggling to have traction in Australia.
‘They’re incredible off-road machines but where they lack is in a reputation for reliability and longevity,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
The number of smaller Land Rover Discovery Sport four-wheel drives dropped by 71 per cent in just one year, with sales falling to 38 from 133.
Range Rover Velar sales have halved, falling by 55 per cent to 25 from 55, when monthly sales in 2021 were compared with last year.
Jaguar F-Pace sales plummeted to just eight, from 41 a year earlier – a fall of 81 per cent, as prestige buyers overwhelmingly preferred SUVs from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo.
‘Just in terms of branding, they’re up against some powerhouses,’ Mr Hagon said.
Jaguar F-Pace sales plummeted to just eight, from 41 a year earlier – a fall of 81 per cent
Another British SUV slid too with MINI Countryman sales falling 34 per cent from 102 to 67.
German car giant Volkswagen faltered too with of the Tiguan falling by 75 per cent to 118, from 481 a year earlier as it struggled to supply enough of the volume-selling 110TSI model.
Golf Alltrack sales have plunged by 100 per cent, from 51 to nothing.
The French also went backwards with Peugeot 3008 sales plunging by 72 per cent from 60 to 17.
Sales of the Renault Koleos, based on the Nissan X-Trail, halved by 58 per cent falling from 88 to just 37.
European four-wheel drives, with a few exceptions, have lost significant ground even as SUV sales surged on the new and used car markets.
The Toyota LandCruiser was Australia’s fourth bestselling car last month, with its sales in February surging by 37.1 per cent, climbing to 2,521 from 1,839 in the same month a year earlier.
Secondhand prices for the top-of-the-range Toyota LandCruiser Sahara have soared by 54 per cent from $120,000 to $185,000, well beyond the new price of $124,396, Datium Insights data showed.
The Toyota LandCruiser was Australia’s fourth bestselling car last month, with its sales in February surging by 37.1 per cent, climbing to 2,521 from 1,839
Mr Hagon said heavy-duty Toyotas overwhelmingly dominated the vehicle market in more remote areas of Australia’s Top End, adding that LandCruiser owners were confident spare parts would be more readily available should they encounter problems.
‘You speak to people who are going off road in Australia and inevitably, their number one concern is reliability – they want the car to keep going,’ he said.
‘Toyota has a long-running and well earned reputation for longevity, its cars are genuinely fairly tough but one of the big things Toyota has going for it in this market is the repair network and the ability to get a Toyota fixed in remote areas is beyond that of any other brand.’
The RAV4 was Australia’s third most popular car with 2,750 leaving showrooms while the Mazda CX-5 was seventh on the bestseller list with 2,048 sold.
German car giant Volkswagen struggled too with of the Tiguan falling by 75 per cent to 118, from 481 a year earlier
The top-selling SUVs
Toyota RAV4: down 18.5 per cent to 2,750 sales
Toyota LandCruiser: up 37.1 per cent to 2,521
Mazda CX-5: up 4 per cent to 2,048
Mitsubishi ASX: up 10.2 per cent 1,489
The only British brands to see a sales surge with every SUV model was MG, a former UK sports car brand that is now a Chinese-owned budget brand.
MG ZS sales more than tripled from 359 to 1,302, with the small SUV priced from $21,990 driveway.
MG HS, a slightly larger SUV, saw its sales double from 184 to 402.
Mr Hagon said the Covid downturn had encouraged more value-conscious buyers – a phenomenon that also occurred during the Global Financial Crisis a decade ago.
Datium Insights, an arm of US credit ratings agency Moody’s, noted global car production in 2020 was 23 per cent down on 2019 levels.
Covid restrictions have been more brutal in Europe than Asia with car production levels in the UK falling by 34 per cent compared with 33 per cent in Germany.
Car export volumes in both the UK and Germany had fallen by 26 per cent over the year.
Global supply shortages for new cars has seen secondhand prices surge for Japanese-designed four-wheel drives and utes, but not European cars.
Unless a car is particularly rare, weak demand on the new market can be a pointer to faster depreciation.