In this article, ACA Research takes a look at what December’s sales surge means for workshops in 2021

With international trips off the cards, and domestic travel opportunities remaining limited, many Australian households ended up spending less in 2020 than they typically might.
While we did see increases in retail and food spending, the household savings ratio also more than doubled, as they chose to put some of this ‘spare’ money aside for the future.
Looking at this from the perspective of new car sales, this was one of the factors that led to weak results through 2020, with those consumers who did buy a vehicle likely to consider used cars to reduce their outlay.
Moving towards the end of the year though, increasing consumer confidence going into the festive season saw Australians buck this trend, with new car sales exceeding the previous year for the first time since April 2017.
The December result was driven by private Buyers, whose sales were up 41 percent on December 2019 (vs. 14 percent overall), while other parts of the market remained weaker.

Figure One – Year on year change in monthly new car sales. Source: VFACTS 2020

Looking at the year more broadly, no segment was immune from the market decline. We can however see the continuing trend to utes, SUVs and four-wheel-drives, which would have been further propelled by the increase in road trips off the back of border closures.
While these vehicles are likely to be serviced within the dealer network in the short term, many of them will be fitted with accessories and upgrades, ensuring this segment of the aftermarket continues its strong performance.
At a brand level, many established marques benefited from the December sales uplift. With that said, in many cases this was a recovery from particularly poor performance through the year.

Figure Two – New car sales by segment. Source: VFACTS 2020

If we look at the brands that achieved success in both December and 2020 as a whole, two stand out in particular, with SAIC brands MG and LDV the real stars of the show.
Both recorded impressive growth trajectories in 2020, outperforming the rest of the market as a result of models such as the MG ZS and LDV T60 that effectively tapped into consumer demand at a competitive price point.
Alongside them, industry powerhouse Toyota (arguably Australia’s largest, and most trusted vehicle brand) has effectively withstood the turbulent environment of 2020.
While Toyota’s results were static through 2020, this is an impressive performance in and of itself, particularly when paired with the marque’s 36 percent uplift in December.
This success has been underpinned by the top-selling Hilux, which shifted more than 45,000 units through 2020, along with Toyota’s popular RAV 4 hybrid, which has far outmatched its petrol equivalent.

Figure Three – Top three growth brands. Source: VFACTS 2020

So, what do these shifts mean for the aftermarket? Three key takeaways stand out for us:

  1. Strong used vehicle results through most of 2020 offer a significant opportunity to aftermarket workshops, with purchasers in many cases having a minimal connection to dealerships.
  2. The 4WD category appears positioned for continued growth, highlighting the potential for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers operating in this segment of the market.
  3. Hybrid vehicles will continue to become more prevalent in the car parc, (and subsequently in aftermarket workshops). Those already familiar with their servicing and maintenance needs will be well positioned to tap into this trend, while those who aren’t will need to get across their unique requirements.

This column was prepared for AAA Magazine by ACA Research, our partners in the AAAA Aftermarket Dashboard which is delivered to AAAA members each quarter.

For more information, visit www.acaresearch.com.au or contact Ben Selwyn on bselwyn@acaresearch.com.au