What a difference a decade makes: How car sales changed from 2010-2020

Some things change, some things stay the same.

With the latest new-car sales data for October 2020 showing a rebound for manufacturers after a difficult year, hopes are high the Australian automotive industry can once again return its former glory.

But to take that turn of phrase literally, what does “former glory” actually look like for the automotive industry?

It turns out 10 years ago we were also bemoaning the demise of once-skyrocketing sales, with October 2020 marking the weakest October result since 2010.

As a litmus test to see how we’re tracking, we took a look at the VFACTS industry sales figures from October 2010 and compared them to October 2020 to see what’s changed and what has stayed the same.

So, sit back, relax, and cast your mind back a full decade, to when then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was defeated in a leadership spill by Julia Gillard, Collingwood won the AFL Grand Final, and Ke$ha’s song Tik Tok was top of the Billboard charts.

An SUV scourge

The most instantly identifiable trend has been the astronomical rise of SUVs over the last 10 years – or, conversely, the fall of the traditional passenger car.

In the 10 months to the end of October 2010, 195,924 SUVs were sold in Australia – in 2020 that number is up by 81 per cent to 355,211 over the same period.

The other side to the story: passenger cars were selling like hotcakes in 2010, with 491,678 new cars reported as sold by the end of October 2010.

In 2020, that number has fallen to 181,415 – as SUVs and utes take the lion’s share.

The Toyota HiLux was October 2020’s top-selling car, in October 2010 that same honour went to the Holden Commodore.

Above: A 2010 Holden Commodore.

The rise of the underdogs

This year, Kia has rarely strayed out of the five top-selling car brands in Australia, but a decade ago it was far from a major player.

In October 2020, Kia was beaten only by Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford, with a year-to-date sales tally of 46,000 vehicles.

That’s more than double what Kia was selling in 2010, when it offloaded just 20,142 cars in the same period and was trailing behind the following brands (in order of most to least sales): Toyota, Holden, Ford, Mazda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda, Subaru and Volkswagen.

Other brands that have gone from being fringe players to household names include Skoda which sold just 84 cars from January to October 2010 (after a stalled start here), but has sold 5176 in the same period for 2020.

Similarly, Isuzu Ute, which recently launched the new D-Max, has enjoyed a swift rise from 4133 year-to-date sales as of October 2010, to 15,898 in the same period in 2020.

Above: The Kia Cerato, Kia’s top-selling model in October 2020.

Toyota’s dominance

Although there’s been plenty of change over the last decade – one thing remains: Toyota is still top of the pops.

The Japanese giant was market leader in October 2010 after shifting 173,867 cars so far that year, followed by Holden and Ford. Year-to-date, Toyota leads Holden with a margin of 62,742 vehicle sales, or 7.3 market share points.

In October 2020, Toyota’s line-up continues to sell well, with 158,127 cars reported as sold so far this year – a whopping margin of 90,096 cars ahead of second-placed Mazda.

The disappearing acts

And then, of course, there’s the in memoriam section for those we’ve lost.

Manufacturers listed on the VFACTS wrap for 2010 that are no longer selling cars in Australia include Holden, Hummer, Dodge, Smart, Proton and Saab.

Similarly, some of 2010’s most popular models are no longer with us, including the Hyundai Getz, which was the most popular light car under $25k, plus the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

Popular compact SUV the Hyundai ix35 has been succeeded by its 2020 incarnation, the Tucson. while the Mazda CX-7 and Nissan Dualis have both since been dropped from their respective brand rosters – replaced by the CX-5 and Qashqai, respectively.

Other models in the graveyard include the Ford Territory, Mitsubishi Challenger, Nissan Murano, Ssangyong Kyron and Volvo XC70.

Above: The Nissan Dualis.

The demise of local manufacturing

A decade ago, car manufacturing was still something that happened in Australia. In fact, Ford, Holden and Toyota had locally produced a total of 121,628 cars by the time October 2020 rolled around.

As for the rest of our auto supply, the majority were coming from Japan, followed by Thailand, Korea, Germany, England and the USA.

In 2020, local manufacturing output sadly sits at zero, although our top international countries of origin are still Japan, Thailand, Korea and Germany – but China has vaulted ahead of the USA and England.

Pump up the volume

In October 2010, a total of 80,925 vehicles were sold, bringing that year’s running total to 861,645.

Interestingly, results for October 2020 weren’t all that dissimilar at 81,220 – but this year’s running total is far more lacklustre at 726,111.

Despite a weaker-than-expected October, new car sales for 2010 went on to have a record-breaking year, marking the second highest result in Australian history with 1,035,574 cars sold.

For 2020 to reach such heights, manufacturers will have to pull out all the stops to shift 309,463 cars in the remaining two months. You never know…

The 10 best-selling cars of October 2010 vs October 2020

Ranking October 2010 October 2020
1 Holden Commodore Toyota HiLux
2 Mazda3 Ford Ranger
3 Toyota Corolla Toyota RAV4
4 Hyundai i30 Toyota Prado
5 Ford Falcon Toyota Corolla
6 Holden Cruze Isuzu D-Max
7 Mitsubishi Lancer Mazda CX-5
8 Toyota Camry Hyundai Tucson
9 Hyundai Getz Toyota LandCruiser Wagon
10 Toyota Yaris Kia Cerato

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