The researcher reported that new-car buying intentions by Australians within the next 12 months has fallen to 563,000, down from 590,000 as measured in a similar survey held in November last year.
Roy Morgan Research says the slowdown in passenger car sales will hit the small-car sector, particularly the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, but will not affect the ongoing love affair with SUVs.
Roy Morgan said 2017 would prove the pivotal point where SUV sales exceed passenger cars.
The researcher’s industry director of automotive, Jordan Pakes, said the SUV boom “looked likely to continue in 2017” with 225,000 people surveyed stating they would buy an SUV.
“Passenger car purchase intention declined over much of 2016 and now sits below the total SUV category on 218,000,” he said.
“Much of this is the result of decreased intentions to buy small passenger cars such as the Mazda 3 and Corolla – a potential casualty of Australians’ increasing appetite for SUVs, and in particular the smaller variants (of SUVs).”
Roy Morgan found that Toyota is still the brand that people prefer, with 117,000 potential buyers. But, compared with a similar survey of October 2015, this is down from 138,000.
The biggest improver over the past year has been Honda, attracting an increase in prospective buyers up from 31,000 last October to 41,000 now.
Total intention to buy a new car within the next four years is also down from the July peak. There are now 2.264 million new car buyers in the market.
Though the outlook for 2017 is weaker than previous trends, Mr Pakes said the 2016 calendar year is still expected to hit another all-time record.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries last month reported that the market at the end of October was 2.4 per cent up on the same period in 2015, driven mainly by SUV sales.
It said the industry is on track to surpass last year’s record total of 1,155,408.
By Neil Dowling