SYDNEY, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Sales of new motor vehicles in Australia rose in December to cap off the strongest year on record, a sign consumers are still ready to splash out on big ticket items even while penny pinching elsewhere.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics out on Wednesday showed new vehicle sales rose 2.2 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted 98,264. That was also the highest monthly total on record and a hefty 17.9 percent higher than in December 2011.
Sales of sports utility vehicles extended their barnstorming run with a rise of 5.8 percent in December to 26,502, an increase of 17 percent for the year.
Sales of passenger vehicles rose 1.2 percent in December, while sales of other vehicles, including trucks, edged up by 0.2 percent.
Industry data out earlier in the month showed new vehicle sales up 15.7 percent compared to December 2011.
For December alone, Toyota retained first place on the sales ladder with 22.2 percent of the market. Mazda climbed to second spot with 10.0 percent, overtaking the Holden unit of General Motors with 9.1 percent.
Hyundai moved up to fourth with 8.1 percent, while Ford dropped back a place with 8.0 percent.
For all of 2012, Toyota again led with 19.6 percent of the market. Holden came second, but its share declined by over two percentage points to 10.3 percent. Mazda took third spot, while Ford fell two spots to fifth on the sales table.