Newbies start slow

Newbies start slow
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The Holden Trax has been the highest-selling of the baby SUVs released in Australia last year.

Last year saw an influx of compact SUVs as car companies fell over each other trying to cash in on the burgeoning segment.

Going by sales figures, you can hardly blame them: despite sales being down practically across the board in 2014, small SUV sales continue to rise, with the numbers from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showing the segment is up 14.4 per cent on the same time last year.

And yet, it is the old guard that is dominating sales rather than the models that arrived as part of the 2013 baby boom.

The Hyundai ix35 has lorded over its rivals for some time and while its sales have slipped slightly over the past 12 months, it is still the clear leader with a market share of 23.4 per cent nationally and an even bigger 35.1 per cent in WA. Other relative oldies like the Subaru XV, Nissan Dualis, Mitsubishi ASX and Volkswagen Tiguan round out the top five.

It can often take time for new models to find their footing in terms of sales but they have been known to burst on to the scene. The Mazda CX-5 was launched locally in February 2012; by April that year it was already making up 19.8 per cent of all mid-sized SUVs under $60,000 sold in Australia, passing the established Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V to lead all comers.

The CX-5 benefited from replacing the existing CX-9, but even with the growing popularity of compact SUVs, none of the class of 2013 has had such an impact. The Holden Trax has been the best of the lot, racking up 2505 sales nationally so far this year and selling enough in WA to take fifth spot overall in WA.

However the boldly weird Nissan Juke makes up just 3.3 per cent of the market, which drops to 2.1 per cent for the Suzuki S-Cross and 2 per cent for the Ford EcoSport.

It's worth noting both the S-Cross and EcoSport only arrived in December, a few months after the Trax and Juke, meaning there has been less time to become familiar with buyers.

The two French additions to the market have barely made a ripple since arriving midyear, with the Peugeot 2008 only selling 207 units in 2014 for a 0.7 per cent share and the Citroen C4 Aircross a paltry 16, despite Citroen getting a new distributor early last year.

Suzuki Australia communications manager Andrew Ellis said the S-Cross had initially been hampered by supply issues due to it being the first car the company had sourced from its Hungary factory.

"We did better last month, which was the first time we've had full supply.

"We'd like to be doing 400 or 500 a month and we think with the supply issues sorted we'll be close to that figure," he said.

In a statement, Nissan said it was happy with the performance of the Juke and it had brought new customers to the brand.

Ford brand communications manager Neil McDonald said only having one variant available at the time of the EcoSport's launch had hampered its ability to attract buyers but it would perform better with the full range being available to customers since February.

Mr McDonald said buyers themselves were still coming to terms with small SUVs

"It'll be interesting to see how things progress as consumers become more aware of these vehicles and their practicalities around the CBDs and also in the country," he said.

The scene will get even more crowded in the future. Nissan will next month introduce the Dualis' successor, the Qashqai, while the long-awaited Renault Captur will also arrive this year.

The Honda Hr-V and Lexus NX are also confirmed for Australia, while Hyundai may aim to strengthen its stranglehold by bringing in the smaller ix25, which will soon hit Chinese roads.

NATIONAL BABY SUV SALES FOR 2014 (to end of May)
TOP 5
Hyundai ix35: 7275 (23.4 per cent market share)
Subaru XV: 4471 (14.4)
Nissan Dualis: 3938 (12.7)
Mitsubishi ASX: 3297 (10.6)

Volkswagen Tiguan: 2660 (8.6)

2013's NEW ARRIVALS
Citroen C4 Aircross: 16 (0.1 per cent market share)
Peugeot 2008: 207 (0.7)
Ford EcoSport: 619 (2.0)
Suzuki S-Cross: 666 (2.1)
Nissan Juke: 1017 (3.3)
Holden Trax: 2505 (8.1)
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