THE WHEELS REPORT

Passing judgement on Ozís top car brands, and how theyíll go in 2016

TWENTY-FIFTEEN was a huge year for new cars. As Wheels goes to press with a month still to play, our Aussie hunger for new metal is on target to top 1.15 million.

But we reckon 2016 will be bigger again thanks to low interest rates, an insatiable hunger for SUVs and deals indicative of brands desperate to protect their patch.

Holden and Ford will be winners in 2016, stepping up to third and fifth respectively on the sales charts. For the former, though, it still wonít be enough to surpass the unexpected hard charger, Mazda. And no brand will come close to unseating the dominance of Toyota.

But not all car companies will share in the 2016 spoils. There are tough times ahead for Hyundai, while Mitsubishi and Nissan wonít have as much to smile about either.

And how will Dieselgate affect Australiaís (former) love of Volkswagen?

Hereís how Wheels sees Australiaís top eight brands performing in 2016 Ė and one to watch.

1ST TOYOTA A-

2015 199K 2016* 210K

RESULTS

Continued dominance in the small and medium segments, as well as a broad range of top-selling SUVs, makes Toyota a sales force to be reckoned with. The heavily discounted Camry continues to dominate the mid-size segment and provide a locally made fourcylinder alternative to the larger Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. Corolla is again on track for top-selling status, while the newly released Hilux looks set to break ute sales records.

OPPORTUNITIES

The mighty SUV surge rolls on and Toyota is beautifully positioned to take advantage with recent updates to Prado and LandCruiser, while Fortuner brings more diesel muscle. New CH-R could slot in as a rival to the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V before the end of 2016, but itís more likely a 2017 proposition. So itís up to the facelifted RAV4 to do the entry-level SUV heavy lifting. Thereís also a new-generation Prius for a low-volume kick.

CHALLENGES

Maintaining focus on the brand. Despite flashes of brilliance such as the 86 sports coupe, Toyota is best known for being dependable, yet bland. As buyers realise other brands can do the dependable bit, but with some fizz thrown in (think Mazda and, occasionally, Hyundai), it means that Toyota needs to apply itself to maintain share. The company is also more exposed than most to the swing away from passenger cars Ė only because it sells so many of them.

SUMMARY

Hard worker, but could apply itself better Ė and possibly needs to modify its own high standards. Toyota will again win the sales race in 2016; the question is by how much. Toyota has strength across every major segment, a loyal customer base and can expect modest growth from SUVs and the new Hilux. But it has been shedding market share since 2012.

2ND MAZDA A+

2015 113K 2016* 117K

RESULTS

CX-3 shot to the top of the small-SUV sales charts and has enduring appeal beyond the narrower product ranges of its rivals. Bigger CX-5 rounds out an SUV duopoly. The Mazda 3ís sales suffered in the wake of the CX-3ís storm, but itís still the brandís top seller by far, while the 2 continues to impress. Indeed, few Mazdas miss their target (although the BT-50 continues to underperform) and that adds up to a big tally.

OPPORTUNITIES

All-new CX-9 arrives in the second quarter of 2016 and brings modest volume potential in a segment where Hyundai, Kia and Toyota have enjoyed recent success. Also expect a hard-top MX-5 later in the year. But itís the mild update to the top-selling 3 in the second half of the year that offers the most potential. Before then Mazda may sharpen deals to protect against increased small-car price competitiveness.

CHALLENGES

The ute market is booming and the BT-50 has largely failed to capitalise in the face of recent new arrivals and updates from competitors, including its mechanical twin, the Ford Ranger.

Some of Mazdaís key models also look set to come under sustained attack. The CX-3 is up against small cars fighting the small SUV onslaught (Hyundai being the most obvious), while the CX-5 has to fend off new or freshened rivals.

SUMMARY

26 Teacherís pet; enjoys new challenges. Mazda has plenty to work on for 2016, such as increasing its slice of the ute market. The challenge will be doing it while not upsetting the serenity of the core model range, something central to Mazdaís ongoing success.

3RD HYUNDA IB+

2015 103K 2016* 96K

RESULTS

Much of Hyundaiís 2015 success has been down to red-hot deals such as $19,990 driveaway i30 autos. If you combined i30 sales with Elantra (the sedan version) they would be the second most popular small car by the slimmest of margins (to Toyotaís Corolla). The ix35 has also been a hit, although transitioning to its replacement wearing the revived Tucson nameplate required additional marketing efforts. ) g ditional

OPPORTUNITIES

The biggest news for Hyundai in 2016 is an all-new Elantra. Fresh metal and underpinnings should translate to a big step up for the small sedan. Hyundai could also benefit from its rumoured Prius rival that will bring some high-tech petrol-electric goodness to the brand. Donít expect big sales figures, but it could shine a techno spotlight on the rest of the range. he etal mall val e chno

CHALLENGES

Hyundaiís been playing games registering cars that donít yet have generally at been the repositioned Accent to plug. And no ute or small SUV, plus slow-selling fringe models (Genesis, Sonata, i40, Veloster) makes life tough. yundaiís ave buyers. Itís a short-term way to boost the numbers, but nerally causes indigestion clearing stock, typically a discount. Its cheapest model, the i20, has en discontinued, leaving a huge hole for e e nge loster)

SUMMARY

Occasionally procrastinates, but a hard worker. With not much large-volume fresh metal on the horizon, a sales downturn looms for the brand. With Holden snapping at its heels, Hyundai could well lose third place, experiencing its biggest sales drop in years.

4TH HOLDEN C+

2015 100K 2016* 109K

RESULTS

There have been few shining lights on the Holden sales front, especially with the looming manufacturing closure. Barina down, Cruze down, Captiva 7 down, Commodore down, Trax down, Colorado down, Malibu (remember that one?) down.

Holden is holding on to some month-on-month growth in market share, but year-on-year its share has fallen. b wi Colora hol ye

OPPORTUNITIES

Itís all about fresh metal for Holden, but much of it is arriving late in the year. Expect a new Barina and updated Trax, Captiva and Colorado (which could finally get the firepower it needs to challenge better rivals). Astra is an important newcomer and could be joined by an all-new, and imported, Cruze. The big unknown is Commodore. Thereís a real chance patriotism could bolster sales of the last Aussie model, especially V8 variants. ye be join C

CHALLENGES

Convincing people the brand is here to stay. Many think the end of manufacturing means the end of Holden, so the company has a job to do to reassure people about the Lionís future. Living with underwhelming key models and managing the likely end of local Cruze production also makes for a tough year ahead. In other words, the challenges are many, huge and varied. p manufactu underwhelm produ ch

SUMMARY

27 Lots to learn. Another tough year ahead, but it could come good in Q4. The freshening of key models means Holden is well finally flex its muscle on the sales front, overtaking Hyundai to regain third place in the market. learn T positioned to a challenged

5TH MITSUBISHI B-

2015 75K 2016* 70K

RESULTS

It has been a rare positive year for Mitsubishi, but its climb up the charts has all been off the back of the new Triton ute and some cracking deals on the ASX compact SUV. The ageing Lancer Ė itís approaching retirement age in dog years Ė continues to shed share in a large and important market segment. Its smaller sibling, the Mirage, battles with fickle sales at the cut-throat end of the market.

OPPORTUNITIES

A replacement for the Challenger arrives early in the year, renamed Pajero Sport. It wonít be massive volume, but will add some muscle in the serious off-road segment and stem some flow from Pajero to other brands. An updated Mirage hatch will appear in the second half. An updated Lancer, due in the first half, wonít challenge class leaders but may claw back some of the market share it has shed in recent years.

CHALLENGES

Every other brand. And a lack of genuinely new product; Mitsubishi has been sitting on its hands for so long they must be numb. Passenger-car share is dismal and the brandís successes Ė ASX and Triton Ė will come under increasing pressure in 2016.

The Triton may be new, but itís selling largely on price in a ute market bristling with a dazzling array of fresh offerings

SUMMARY

Punching above its weight, but challenges ahead. With little on the product horizon, itíll be a tough year, made more difficult by rivals rediscovering their mojo. So expect plenty more grey clouds ahead. Thatís a tough call considering it has just emerged from a tropical downpour, but a lack of fresh and exciting product offers little short-term relief.

6TH FORD D-

2015 68K 2016* 77K

RESULTS

Itís difficult not to refer to Fordís recent sales results as anything but dismal. Its apparent lack of interest in selling anything but a ute makes for poor reading; Falcon down 4pc, Fiesta down 32pc, Focus down 58pc, Kuga down 22pc. Oh, and the all-new Mondeo has been outsold by the dated model it replaces (a car, admittedly, Ford pushed onto the market with big discounts).

OPPORTUNITIES

Anything not designed to go off-road. Ford has almost no pull with its light, small and medium cars, something that needs to change to revive former glories. The cars are good; the brand, sales pitch and customer service seem on the nose. At least the overpriced Everest provides a growth opportunity, while the freshened Focus could also lift. Mustang will add some incremental growth and focus a spotlight on the brand.

CHALLENGES

The end of the Falcon and Territory. Production winds up in October, not only taking two modest-selling models out of the mix (there will likely still be some in dealerships in early 2017), but also potentially robbing management of valuable brainpower as it manages the complex task of shutting down a major manufacturing facility. Ford also has to find a way to convince family buyers to walk into its dealerships.

SUMMARY

Rarely listens and doesnít seem to learn much. A poor performer in recent years, with little to suggest thatís going to change in 2016. Ford needs to change Ė and quickly Ė if itís to regain some of the ground lost in recent years. But some key rivals are also in for a tough year, so the brand is likely to attain fifth.

7TH NISSAN B+

2015 65K 2016* 71K

RESULTS

Itís all about SUVs for Nissan, with almost two-thirds of its sales coming from the high-riding wagons. Qashqai now outsells Pulsar (down 19pc for the year) and has brought additional volume over the Dualis it replaces, while the evergreen X-Trail is the brandís top seller. However, the new-generation dual-cab Navara hasnít taken off as well as might have been expected.

OPPORTUNITIES

The new Navara ute is yet to get into its stride, partially because variants other than the dual-cab didnít arrive until late 2015.

Expect to see a volume increase from those newer variants. An updated Altima may also make an appearance during the year, though its impact will be minimal. Nissanís strength in SUVs Ė the local marketís big growth segments Ė puts it in good stead.

CHALLENGES

Nissanís popular SUVs are under a sustained attack from rivals keen to sniff more of the soft-roader success. Qashqai and X-Trail will face increased competition, while the evergreen Y61 Patrol (first seen in 1998) is expected to succumb to stricter emissions regulations that come into force in November. Murano will finally be phased out during the year.

SUMMARY

Hard worker that enjoys pushing itself. Thereís a quieter launch year ahead for Nissan in 2016, with little slated for passenger cars such as the disappointing Pulsar. Still, expect Navara to build sales while others drop off, leading to a net overall gain and a step up to sixth on the sales charts.

8TH VOLKSWAGEN B-

2015 60K 2016* 59K

RESULTS

There are 17 models on Volkswagenís books, but Golf does the bulk of the heavy lifting. The popular hatch is up 17pc for the year and accounts for 37pc of the brandís sales. Golf and Polo together account for almost all of VWís 11.9pc rise YTD.

However, the emissions scandal is clearly taking its toll locally because the German brandís sales fell 6pc in October.

OPPORTUNITIES

Itís all about the Tiguan in 2016. It is outsold by at least eight midsize rivals and VW hopes the arrival of the second-gen model in the first half of the year will bump it up the pecking order. Golf should get some pricing and marketing love as the small-car segment heats up. Volkswagen also has a full year with the new Passat, a car priced to take a larger slice of the medium segment dominated by Toyotaís Camry.

CHALLENGES

Regaining trust after the cheating scandal. But the early part of 2016 will see Volkswagen trying to look after existing customers, taking the focus off winning potential new buyers. Also, Amarok is under pressure from newer utes, while Golf fights in a declining segment; almost two-thirds of VW sales are traditional passenger cars, which are in gradual decline. SUVs account for 35pc of total sales, but only 16pc of Volkswagen volume.

SUMMARY

A problem child. School reports arenít just about results, but how the kid behaves in class. And weíre tipping VW would have been given the cane in days of old. Itís sailing through uncharted waters so must continue to navigate carefully, with customer service paramount. Dealers, too, will be distracted dealing with fixing 80,000 cars. Uncertain future, but very strong product.

32ND JAGUAR A+

2015 1.2K 2016* 3K

RESULTS

Anticipation isnít a strong enough word for the XE. Jaguar has been desperate for something to finally take the fight to the German big guns, notably C-Class, 3 Series and A4. In its first couple of months, the XE was by far the biggest-selling Jag; a trend set to continue. Less impressive was the former mainstay, the XF, which slowed to a trickle as a replacement model looms.

OPPORTUNITIES

The XE has plenty to offer Ė an impressive sports sedan with more exclusivity than its prime premium-badged rivals Ė and will dominate the brandís sales. The new-gen XF that arrives in February should bring incremental increases, and a tweaked XJ will also arrive around the same time, meaning a refresh of most of the British brandís models. Crucially, around mid-year, Jaguar will launch the F-Pace, its first SUV.

CHALLENGES

The Germans. Jaguar is still a tiny player in the booming luxury market and the impressive offerings from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi inevitably impact how many potential buyers will consider a Jaguar. The British marque must also fight without the breadth of model variants offered by its wealthy German rivals, instead focusing on its relatively narrow line-up.

SUMMARY

Finally pouncing with the potential it has long had. The XE is exactly the car Jaguar needs right now, something that will ensure a more than doubling of sales in 2016. Throw in fresh offerings across almost the entire model range and itís shaping up to be Jaguarís best year in Australia to date.