As the national market for new car sales tumbled into a coronavirus abyss during April, the ACT was the only state or territory across the country to gain ground.
ACT new car sales for April were nearly 25 per cent up on the same month last year in complete contrast to the national market, which plummeted by 48.5 per cent.
Nationally it was the worst April and the largest single-month decline since 1991, which is the furthest back that the industry can officially verify from its own records.
NSW, Queensland and Victoria, the three largest volume new car markets in Australia, all suffered sales shocks of 50 per cent or more.
However, the Canberra sales surge in the aftermath of January 20 hailstorm provided a third consecutive and unexpected month of local stimulus, with 1355 new vehicles sold during April in the ACT, 268 more than for the same month last year.
After thousands of hail-beaten cars were declared total losses by insurers, the local market went into overdrive during February, March and now April. The local used car market, too, had strong results.
Thousands of hail-damaged cars, most of them total insurance write-offs and waiting for auction, still remain parked up along Majura Rd to Canberra's north.
The March and April surge of replacement new vehicle deliveries, some on special order, into the Canberra market stretched the resources of local dealers yet the flow-on provided a much-needed economic cushioning effect compared with the COVID-19 crunch felt elsewhere around the country.
Toyota led the ACT market with 232 vehicle sales for April, followed by Mazda with 158 and Hyundai with 157. Subaru had one of its strongest Canberra sales months on record, with 112 sold across two dealerships.
Most of the Canberra sales activity was in small to medium passenger cars with 64 Toyota Corollas, 56 Hyundai i30s, 43 Mazda3s, and 36 VW Golfs sold. Among the SUVs, Toyota sold 55 RAV4s, while the Subaru Forester (37 sales) recorded a rare win over the Mazda CX5 (31 sales).
Anecdotally, across the country the first half of April was far worse for retail sales than the second half although national sales are now tracking 20.9 per cent lower for the first four months of 2020 than for the same period in 2019.
Greg Newman, the dealer principal for Rolfe Audi and Subaru in Canberra, said that the flow-on of customer orders as a result of the hailstorm will even continue into May "but at this stage, June is looking very bare".
"Customer inquiry rate in the first half of April fell by between 80 to 85 per cent," Mr Newman said.
"It has picked up a little now just this week, but it's still very low. Even our service business is suffering and because of that, we're closing our service departments at both dealerships on Fridays."
"The COVID-19 related restrictions and associated economic anxiety have combined to send the sales of new vehicles off a cliff," he said.
The national body is now floating ideas to the federal government which could assist the industry to recover, including a national fleet renewal scheme and an extension to $150,000 instant asset write-off which currently expires on June 30.