Australians bought 1,153,111 new vehicles last year which represents a drop of around 3 per cent on 2017.
The Toyota Hilux continues to dominate sales, selling 51,705 units in 2018, to top the national vehicle sales chart again.
SUV's accounted for 43 per cent of the total market, up from 19.2 percent in 2008.
Australians love the great outdoors and the latest national vehicle sales figures for 2018 reinforce this with the SUV segment dominating sales.
Releasing the 2018 full-year sales results, FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said “New vehicle sales results in 2018 reflect a challenging climate across the Australian economy including a slowing housing market, tightening of money lending and the drought."
Mr Weber also highlighted 2018 as a year of continuing adjustment for motoring consumers, with the year seeing a further shift to SUV sales at the expense of passenger vehicles.
“Australian consumers continue to value the comfort, flexibility and utility of SUVs, which collectively accounted for 43 per cent of the market in 2018. We predicted this trend to continue last year, and this has certainly been the case” Mr Weber said.
In addition to the rise of SUV sales, sales of light commercial vehicles continued to climb, with the Toyota HiLux again the number one selling vehicle in 2018 across all categories with 51,705 sales.
The HiLux was followed by the Ford Ranger, again number two in the market with 42,144 sales, followed by the Toyota Corolla (35,320), the Mazda 3 (31,065) and the Hyundai i30 (28,188).
But the more things change the more they stay the same, as Toyota once again - for the 16th year in a row - was the best-selling brand in the country, selling 217,061 new vehicles over the last 12 months, which bucked the trend as a 0.2 percent increase over 2017.
Toyota again led the market in 2018 with 18.8 per cent market share, followed by Mazda (9.7 per cent), Hyundai (8.2 per cent), Mitsubishi (7.4 per cent) and Ford (6 per cent).
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"In real terms cars have never been more affordable, but Australian consumers are being cautious when making a major financial investment,” Weber says.
Weber says 2019 shapes as a major year for future policy on low-emissions vehicles, citing certainty over fuel quality as core issue to address CO2 emissions.
“We will continue to support a mandated fuel standard that is relevant to our market and conditions," says Weber.
“We take engine technology from Europe, Asia and the US and all the research and development is being driven on the basis of having 10 parts-per-million 95RON fuel. That’s where we need to be.”
Also of note is Ford’s sales of Mustangs and Rangers pushed the Blue Oval above rival Holden to fifth place on the sales standings last year.
Toyota Australia sales and marketing vice-president Sean Hanley says customers are increasingly looking at hybrids and references the 40 per cent mix of hybrid Camry's as an indication of how buyers will adopt technology if it is well priced and positioned.
“We’re aiming to have hybrids represent 20 per cent of our sales by 2020,” Hanley says.
In response to the strong year, Executive Director of AFS, Brad Dale, says "Whilst the headline numbers are pleasing, continued weak conditions in the housing market, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, and the evident handbrake on credit applied by the banks as a result of the findings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has resulted in a very slow end to the year with a 15 per cent slump in new car sales for December 2018."
"We expect this weakness to continue into 2019, with housing prices expected to continue to fall a further 5-10% in Sydney and Melbourne, and the community awaits the handing down the Final Report of the Royal Commission by Kenneth Hayne which may have significant repercussions for the dealer industry, finance brokers and the broader financial services community," says Mr Dale.
"Despite these headwinds, demand for car loans for used cars remains strong, particularly for our specialised niches such as classic car loans, older car finance, vintage car loans, and import car loans," Mr Dale said.
"Customers can arrange car finance through AFS that ensures flexibility of choice: