ONLY a disaster can stop Australia from setting a new record for new car sales heading into December. For the first time ever Australians have bought more than one million cars in the first 11 months of the year, according to the latest sales data released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Heavy discounting and 0% finance offers have had the desired affect with 1,016,605 new cars finding homes so far in 2012. That's only 33,377 sales behind the yearly record set in 2007.
But despite the rosy picture painted by the official sales figures, many in the industry feel the car market is being artificially propped up by factory incentives and bonuses, which are encouraging dealers to register cars that haven't yet found buyers.
The official figures count a car as sold when it is registered, not when it is driven away by a customer. That encourages dealers to register cars as demonstrators in order to reach official sales targets and collect generous factory bonuses.
One senior industry figure told Drive this week that the practice could be inflating the market by as many as 250,000 cars.
"We believe the market should be around the 750,000 to 800,000 mark," he said.
The FCAI is confident that December sales will push the final sales figure over 1.1 million for the first time.
The strong sales are being driven by small cars and one-tonne utes, with the Mazda3 small car and Toyota HiLux ute battling each other for the the title of Australia's top-selling vehicle.
Heading into December the Mazda appears to have an unbeatable lead of almost 2000 sales (1953 to be exact).
The Mazda3 ended the Holden Commodore's 15-year reign as Australia's favourite car in 2011; the first time since the First World War that an imported car has beaten a locally-built model.
But it was the new Toyota Corolla that stole the top spot in November, notching up 4190 sales; pipping the Mazda3 by less than 500 units.
It was another strong month for Toyota, with the Camry not only the most popular locally-built car, but also the third highest seller in November. The HiLux was fourth in the monthly sales race.
The Japanese company is comfortably the biggest brand in the market with a 19.4% share. Holden is still in second place with a 10.4% market share.
It was a respectable month for Holden with three cars in the top 10 sellers for November. The Commodore finished the month the fifth best-seller, but was outsold by the Toyota Camry for the second month running and remains a whopping 25 per cent down year-to-date as large car sales continue to slide.
The Holden Cruze was seventh for the month while the Colorado ute enjoyed its best month, finishing ninth.
Ford's best seller for November was the Ranger ute, taking sixth spot, while the Focus small car was the 10th best-seller; and is the blue oval's most popular model so far in 2012.
Falcon sales continue to decline, with only 1206 sales in November.
Top 10 sellers in November
1. Toyota Corolla - 4190
2. Mazda3 - 3703
3. Toyota Camry - 3145
4. Toyota HiLux - 3059
5. Holden Commodore - 2659
6. Ford Ranger - 2187
7. Holden Cruze - 2115
8. Nissan Navara - 2057
9. Holden Colorado - 1956
10. Ford Focus - 1920
Top 10 sellers year-to-date
1. Mazda3 - 39,479
2. Toyota HiLux - 37,526
3. Toyota Corolla - 35,256
4. Holden Commodore - 28,337
5. Holden Cruze - 27,257
6. Hyundai i30 - 26,098
7. Toyota Camry - 23,644
8. Nissan Navara - 23,354
9. Mitsubishi Triton - 17,307
10. Ford Focus - 16,671