BusinessDay contributing editor
It seems the "C" in Mercedes-Benz C class sedan stands for "common": there are more of them being sold this year than Ford Falcons. Include the C class coupes and there are more than Falcons and Toyota Aurions combined.
That says as much about the decline of the Aussie family car as the rise of Mercedes' Car of the Year, but Mercedes overall has lost any claim of being an exclusive brand. More Berlin taxis than Hondas are being driven out of our showrooms.
It's not just Mercedes. Australian sales of the obvious German rivals, BMW and Audi, are booming, too. That's partly thanks to cheaper entry-level models, but also to lower interest rates and fuel prices promoting an extraordinary willingness to splurge on expensive new cars when consumers are supposed to lack confidence and the economy is soft.
C-class models like Mercedes-Benz's C200 are now more commonly bought than much humbler vehicles like the Toyota Aurion or Ford Falcon. Photo: Mark Bean
I'll come to a problem building in that for many buyers – and an opportunity for those who are more patient – but first marvel at our new-found indulgence in flashy metal.
Mercedes passenger car sales in the first third of the year are up by 21 per cent, BMW 16 per cent, Audi 14. Total Mercedes vehicle sales, including SUVs and vans, were 11,474 units, up 23 per cent.
But that sort of sales growth is stuck in the slow lane compared with the supercars fanging it down the centre line. The fastest growing segment of the Australian vehicle market is "sports cars over $200,000". Dealers sold 527 vehicles in this category, 30 per cent more than last year.
The breakdown of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries figures for the first four months of the year confirm new vehicle sales are going gangbusters, on track for a record high – and that's before any rush for cheap utes pre-June 30.
Who cares about utes though when the most expensive cars are growing fastest? In the first four months, Lamborghini sales were up 820 per cent to 46 units. Ferrari sales, 64 of them, were up 107 per cent. Maserati sales quadrupled to 177.
Porsche 911s are a bit pedestrian in this company, but April was a good month for them as 43 were sold, taking the year-to-date total to 148 – up a modest 7 per cent.
While 911 sales growth wasn't speedy, Porsche overall sold 1293 of its V-dubs-on-steroids, 62 per cent more than this time last year. As an exclusivity measure, new Porsche 911s this year are more common than new VW Beetles (78 sold) and Golf cabriolets (114).
By stark comparison, there have been 2029 Falcons bought in the first four months and just 956 Aurions. The increasingly-common Mercedes C class? Try 3264 (the new model up 102 per cent on the old) plus 731 coupes.
Sales of all Merc passenger cars were up 21 per cent to 8126. Sales of all Ford passenger cars were down 41 per cent to 7022. The three-pointed star is leaving the blue oval in the dust.
Sales of all locally manufactured vehicles were down 9 per cent to 28,995 – only 8 per cent of the 359,250 total sales..
If the industry beats the 2013 sales record of 1.136 million, Australians will have purchased nearly 5.5 million new vehicles in five years – rather amazing for a mature market with a population that averaged about 23 million people over that period.