Australians buy more Mercs than Fords, as luxury car sales surge

Sales of Australian-made cars have slumped to their lowest level in more than 60 years and have edged below 100,000 vehicles for the first time since 1953.

The cost of car makers leaving Australia

Everyone knows car makers are on their way out and jobs in the sector are being slashed, but the flow-on effects to the wider economy may not be known for some time.

Such is the extent of the decline that German luxury car giant Mercedes-Benz now sells more passenger vehicles in Australia than rival Ford, which has been building Falcons in Australia since 1960.

In total Ford sold 19,817 passenger cars in Australia in 2015, while Mercedes-Benz notched sales of 22,817, according to official VFACTS data released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Lamborghini sales almost tripled over the past year.
Lamborghini sales almost tripled over the past year. 

The Ford Falcon was launched in Australia in 1960 and more than 26,000 rolled off the company's Broadmeadows production line in the car's first year.

The iconic Falcon has won at Bathurst 15 times, has been the highest-selling car in Australian history, and is one of the longest-running nameplates in the world. But Ford managed to sell just 5968 Falcon passenger cars last year, less than a quarter of the car's first year of production

Sales of Ford's locally-built Territory SUV also slumped.

In contrast, Australians were happy to splash out on more expensive European models in 2015. Mercedes-Benz sold more than 9300 of its C-class passenger cars last year, despite a starting price tag well in excess of $60,000.

Australians were happy to splash out on more expensive European models in 2015.
Australians were happy to splash out on more expensive European models in 2015. Photo: Supplied

Mercedes-Benz Australia chief executive Horst Von Sanden​ said the numbers were a "wonderful result" for his company.

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"A decade ago, if you suggested we would beat the Falcon with C-Class, that would have been a little far-fetched," he said. "But there are several factors at play. First, the whole market is strong, but the market for luxury and prestige cars is very strong. Second, Australian consumers are happy to stretch the budget a bit more to buy a prestige car.

"The last thing is that the guilt factor has gone. Where people once felt guilty if they didn't buy an Australian car, they worried about what their neighbours might think, the announcement of the closure of the car industry has removed that."

The strength of the luxury end of the market was evident in the VFACTS data.

Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Jaguar sales all surged in 2015.

Australians bought 519 Maseratis last year, up from 401 in 2014. Lamborghini sales almost tripled, from 27 to 84 cars.

Ferrari Australia boss Herbert Appleroth said a combination of high business confidence and low interest rates was spurring sales, and 60 per cent of his customers last year were first-time Ferrari buyers.

"The boom is a sign of tremendous confidence in the economy," he said. "The economic indicators may say one thing, but when you talk to our customers, they have great confidence in the Australian economy. These are high net worth individuals, people running their own companies and large corporations, and the sense I get is that business is dong well.". 

While prestige and luxury car sales boom, demand for Australian-made cars has more than halved in the past decade, from 248,000 in 2005 to just 97,443 last year.

The last time the figure was below 100,000 was in 1953, when 99,000 cars were built and sold in Australia.

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