Car sales slump as virus hits auto market
New vehicle sales in Australia have slumped by almost 50 per cent in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says sales of cars and commercial vehicles were down 48.5 per cent in April to just 38,926.
That left demand for the year down more than 20 per cent to 272,287.
"Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major influence on the April sales result, and reflects a downturn in the broader economy right across the country," FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said.
While brands were doing everything they could to assist dealerships, some retail outlets were facing "overwhelming challenges", Mr Weber said.
He urged federal and state governments to consider the automotive industry, which employs more than 65,000 people in Australia, when compiling recovery plans.
"The JobKeeper and JobSeeker payment programs put in place by the federal government are a welcome initiative," he said.
"However, we believe the scope needs to ensure high turnover and low margin businesses, such as new car dealerships, are covered.
"These businesses are often the backbone of local communities and in the current environment, many are facing overwhelming challenges."
Mr Weber said the auto industry was focused on keeping dealerships open to ensure customers could access sales and important maintenance, despite the current health and economic difficulties.
Many automotive brands were also providing financial and sales target relief to stressed retail outlets.
"Our member brands are working closely with their dealer networks to ensure dealerships are accessible and safe," he said.
"Enhanced hygiene protocols and contact-less sales and social interactions have been initiated to ensure personal protection for both customers and dealer staff."
In April, Toyota maintained its position as clear market leader in Australia, selling 10,325 vehicles ahead of Mazda on 3022 and Hyundai on 2247.
Former industry heavyweight Holden, which is set to exit the Australian market later this year, retailed just 1501 vehicles compared 3483 in the same month last year.
The best selling vehicle last month was the Toyota Hilux with 2339 sales across the four-wheel and two-wheel-drive variants ahead of the Toyota Rav-4 on 1911 and the Ford Ranger on 1540.
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