STRONG SALES: Kia's Cerato has been pivotal for the Korean manufacturer.
STRONG SALES: Kia's Cerato has been pivotal for the Korean manufacturer.

Kia on the march for 2017

UTES power on as the big movers in 2017 but Kia is the standout brand for the first three months of the year.

New car sales set a March record at 105,410 vehicles, an increase of 898 on the same month last year, according to Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries figures.

The Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger were first and second in the charts and both continue to grow by virtue of being newly released models. The Ranger outsold its Toyota rival in four-wheel drives but couldn't sustain that in two-wheel drives.

Toyota remains unassailable as the top brand in Australia but Kia is the market mover.

The Korean brand, having logged a massive 34.8% rise in sales in the first quarter, took 10th place in March with 4684 sales. That puts it within sight of Subaru (ninth on 5006) and VW (eighth on 5122).

The Cerato has provided the bulk of Kia's growth on the back of a $19,990 drive-away deal, accounting for more than a third of the company's business with 1769 sales last month.

Kia's Kevin Hepworth attributes the car's success to holding that financial line.

"Being consistent (in the small car segment) is important. The Cerato has been $19,990 on the road since launch,” he said. "Customers don't have to worry about missing a special deal - that price is the same month in, month out.”

The Hyundai Tucson and Mazda's CX-5 were the only SUVs in the top 10 last month, although crossovers now consistently outsell conventional passenger cars.

This is the "new norm”, says FCAI chief executive Tony Weber.

"For the first three months of 2017 the SUV segment is dominant,” he says. "This time last year passenger cars led the market by around 10,000 sales. Clearly, the shift in market dynamics is accelerating.”

SUV sales were up by almost 8 per cent last month to 41,484 vehicles. Meanwhile there was a slump of almost 11 per cent in passenger cars to 38,972 - and a corresponding 11 per cent rise in light commercial vehicles to 21,992 sales.

Weber says: "Sales of medium-sized SUVs were particularly strong in March, up 18.3 per cent on the same month last year.

"That's a very strong indicator of the vehicle size, versatility and value for money that appeals to a lot of Australian families.”

Mercedes-Benz's continues to control the prestige segment. Sales of 4008 in March pushed Benz to 11th place outright - and beat the combined monthly total of BMW and Audi.

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