SYDNEY, Australia - General Motors' Australian subsidiary, Holden Ltd., reclaimed the sales title here in 1999 for the first time since 1981.
Buoyed by continuing hot demand for the Commodore, its big rear-drive sedan, Holden beat perennial front-runner Toyota with sales of 155,307 units, compared with 153,066 for Toyota. Ford took third with sales of 126,897.
Commodore sales totaled 85,648, making it Australia's best-selling car for the fourth consecutive year. The Ford Falcon was second with 70,084 units. The Toyota Camry, in both four- and six-cylinder versions, came in third with sales of 42,522.
The overall market, however, slipped 2.6 percent from 1998's record, to 786,845, as car sales dropped 6.3 percent from a year earlier to 547,545.
In contrast, Australia's love affair with sport-utilities continued in 1999. Sales of the 42 models in the segment rose 7.8 percent over 1998 to 96,551.
Traditional market leader Toyota continued to dominate the segment in both urban and rural areas. The company sold 13,038 Land Cruisers, 8,266 Prados (a 4Runner derivative) and 6,988 RAV4s.
Nissan sold 10,150 Patrols, 3,646 Pathfinders and 350 Terranos. Honda, which did not enter the segment until 1998, came in third with sales of 9,735 CR-Vs and 2,857 HR-Vs.
Predictions for sales this year are gloomy. A 10 percent goods and services tax on the retail price of new vehicles will replace the present 22 percent levy on wholesale prices on July 1. Because the new tax will cut new-vehicle retail prices by 6 percent on average, most analysts expect first-half sales to tank while consumers await the changeover. Few expect the first-half losses to be recouped in the last six months of the year.
Meanwhile, Toyota Australia has announced the appointment of Kenichi Asano as its new president and CEO, replacing Sam Komori.
Asano, who joined Toyota Motor Corp. in 1967, worked in Australia from 1990-93. He was general manager of the China Division based in Japan.
His first task will be to launch a local version of the Avalon sedan, to go on sale in July.