In a watershed moment for the Australian car industry, a hybrid has become the top selling vehicle in the country.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, News Corporation’s reigning Car of the Year, outsold the Ford Ranger to become Australia’s favourite car in August.

The historic moment was overshadowed by another bleak month for the industry, as Victoria’s lockdown led to a 65.9 per cent drop in sales for the State last month.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was a clear winner in News Corp’s 2019 car of the year awards. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was a clear winner in News Corp’s 2019 car of the year awards. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.Source:Supplied

That led to an overall decline of 28.8 per cent in new car sales for the month. Year to date, sales are down by 20.4 per cent.

Hybrid cars bucked that trend in startling fashion.

Sales were up by more than 126 per cent and market leader Toyota reported that half its sales were hybrids.

Chinese cars also seemed impervious to the downturn, recording a 45 per cent jump in sales over the same month last year.

Last month Australians bought more cars made in China than the US, a huge turnaround for an industry that for more than a century has been dominated by US car brands Ford and General Motors.

China’s MG3 hatchback is on top of light car sales.

China’s MG3 hatchback is on top of light car sales.Source:Supplied

For the rest of the industry, the news was grim. Sales of utes and vans fell by more than a third as business confidence wilted.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, called for the re-opening of the economy and clarity on the way out of lockdown for Victorian businesses.

“The industry has moved swiftly to implement robust COVIDSafe protocols to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees and customers is preserved. However, it is particularly difficult for our members and their Victorian dealer networks under the current Stage 4 Restrictions,” he said

“We’ve seen 29 consecutive months of diminishing sales in the industry and there’s no doubt our members are feeling the pinch. The move to commence the re-opening of industry and markets, especially in Victoria, needs to start as soon as possible.”

Ford’s Ranger was the best-selling ute in August.

Ford’s Ranger was the best-selling ute in August.Source:News Corp Australia

States least affected by COVID restrictions performed the strongest in August. Western Australian sales were down by only 4.6 per cent, while South Australia was down 10.8 per cent and Queensland dropped 14.1 per cent. The ACT recorded a small rise in sales.

The car industry is also dealing with stock shortages that have flowed from the earlier shutdown of factories in Europe and Asia.

Mazda’s CX-5 remains popular among family buyers.

Mazda’s CX-5 remains popular among family buyers.Source:Supplied

As a result sales of low mileage used cars have spiked and prices have gone up. That trend is likely to continue as fewer ex-rental and fleet cars come on to the market in coming months. Rental car sales were down by more than 80 per cent last month.

Toyota remained the clear market leader in August, followed by Mazda, Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi. The top five selling cars were the RAV4, the Ranger, Mazda’s CX-5 and Toyota’s LandCruiser and Corolla.

Top ten brands:

1. Toyota 12,449

2. Mazda 6921

3. Hyundai 4525

4. Kia 4521

5. Mitsubishi 4308

6. Ford 3898

7. Volkswagen 2785

8. Nissan 2380

9. Subaru 2052

10. Honda 1471

Top ten cars:

1. Toyota RAV4 4825

2. Ford Ranger 2935

3. Mazda CX-5 1884

4. Toyota LandCruiser 1633

5. Toyota Corolla 1464

6. Hyundai i30 1429

7. Mitsubishi Triton 1406

8. Kia Cerato 1264

9. Toyota HiLux 1217

10. Mazda CX-3 1136

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