Canberra's car market continues to defy the national slide, with the ACT becoming the only state or territory across the country with new car sales on the positive side of the ledger.
Year-to-date national new vehicle sales show the ACT market up by 27.1 per cent, while the year-to-date sales average across the nation has slipped almost 20 per cent lower than the same period last year.
Australia's two biggest volume states for car sales, NSW and Victoria, slumped by 19.1 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively.
The third-largest market, Queensland, is down 18.1 per cent over the year to date, but its downward trajectory rate has flattened significantly in recent months as it keeps its border sealed and a tight grip on the spread of the coronavirus.
With its citizens in lockdown and facing weeks to come with dealerships closed and a new car purchase the furthest thing from consumers' minds, Victoria's sales are heading downward faster than anywhere else in Australia. During July, Victoria's sales dropped by 24.8 per cent compared with the same month last year.
The late January hailstorm in Canberra also created an unexpected market fillip locally, with tens of thousands of cars written off as all the major insurance companies brought in specialist interstate dent repairers and set up fast-track assessment centres to manage the workload.
From March through to June, as the coronavirus cut a swathe through retail operations around the country and sales plummeted, Canberra's new car sales market was artificially buoyed by the fallout from the hailstorm.
Orders were generally placed locally and the cars delivered locally, although delivery times to customers gradually slowed to a crawl as the international supply chains to Australia from car factories in Japan, China and across Europe were truncated by the pandemic.
As their insurance payouts hit their bank accounts, Canberra buyers shopped for late-model used cars which had immediate availability, or shopped for cheaper new cars simply to provide to-and-from transport.
Chinese brand MG, which cheekily advertises itself as "value since 1924" even though its owners have swapped continents, has been a major beneficiary of the buyer looking for the "cheap but cheerful" car, as have Korean brands Hyundai and Kia.
There was a complete change at the top in July as Australia's biggest-selling vehicle became the Toyota RAV4. It displaced the Hilux light commercial, which had been holding the top slot nationally for almost two years.
The ACT was part of that surge, helped by better availability of the popular model out of Japan. One in every three Toyotas sold in Canberra last month was a RAV4, more than double the volume of its nearest competitor, the Mazda CX-5.
Sales of hybrid vehicles saw a huge July surge in the ACT. Hybrid SUVs, most of them Toyota RAV4s, outsold diesel SUVs last month.
John McGrath, who runs multiple new car franchises in the ACT, said Canberra had been able to insulate itself from the worst of the coronavirus effects experienced in other states but there had been some noticeable market shifts after the hailstorm and during the first surge of the pandemic.
"We found the lower-priced end of the market surged strongly after the hailstorm, then we saw some disruptions to supply as factories slowed or stopped production," he said.
"I think what we're seeing in July, with the prestige car market surging again, is a lot of back orders arriving. Mercedes-Benz cars did well, but so too did BMW and Audi.
"The service side to our businesses has been very good for us. People might not have been driving as much during that April, May and June period, but they are still sticking to their vehicle service schedules, which is important."