SYDNEY, March 5 (Reuters) - Sales of new vehicles in Australia were up 5.2 percent in February from a year earlier, industry data showed on Tuesday, with sales of commercial and sport utility vehicles staying brisk.
The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFACTS report showed total vehicle sales in February were 90,218, compared to 85,723 in the same month of 2012.
Sales were up 5.6 percent on January in original terms, while after seasonal adjustment sales were flat.
For the first two months of 2013, sales were running 8.1 percent ahead of the same period last year, putting the annualised pace of growth at a record 1.135 million.
Demand for sports utility vehicles remained healthy with sales up 14.2 percent on February last year. The light commercial market also boasted a third straight month of hefty gains with a rise of 27 percent.
The strength of vehicle sales has been in stark contrast with softness seen in retail spending, with consumers perhaps attracted by low interest rates on car loans. A high local dollar has also been keeping down prices for imported cars.
For February alone, Toyota retained first place on the sales ladder with a share of 17.8 percent. Mazda held second spot with 9.7 percent, while Nissan nabbed third with 9.1 percent.
It is very rare for Japanese carmakers to hold all top three places in a month.
The Holden unit of General Motors dropped back to fourth with 8.5 percent, followed by Hyundai at 8.3 percent. Ford made a poor showing with 7.3 percent of the market.
Details of the VFACTS report in original terms:
Feb Jan m/m pct Feb/12 y/y pct
Sales 90,218 85,430 +5.6 85,723 +5.2
Sales by Type: Feb ‘13/Feb ‘12 Volumes
Change Pct Change
Passenger Vehicles -2,631 -5.7
Sports Utility +3,336 +14.2
Light Commercial +3,752 +26.9
Heavy Commercial +38 +1.7