SYDNEY, April 4 (Reuters) - Sales of new vehicles in Australia were up 7.4 percent in March, from February, extending a strong run that has far outpaced spending in the retail sector, industry data showed on Thursday.
The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFACTS report showed total vehicle sales in March were 97,400, compared to 90,218 in February. Adjusting for seasonal factors, sales were up 4.7 percent, VFACTS said.
Sales were down 0.2 percent on March last year but that was because March this year had three fewer selling days. As a result, vehicle sales per day were 11.1 percent higher than in March 2012.
For the first three months of 2013, sales were running 5 percent ahead of the same period last year, putting the annualised pace of growth at a record 1.155 million.
Demand for sports utility vehicles remained healthy with sales up 6.3 percent on March last year, even with fewer selling days.
The strength of vehicle demand 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 March alone, Toyota retained first place on the sales ladder with an expanded share of 19.2 percent. Mazda held second spot with 9.4 percent.
Third place was shared between Nissan and Hyundai which both had 8.6 percent. It is rare indeed for Japanese and South Korean car makers to take all four top spots in a month.
Trailing was the Holden unit of General Motors with 8.5 percent, while Ford made another poor showing with 6.6 percent of the market.
Details of the VFACTS report in original terms:
Mar Feb m/m pct Mar/12 y/y pct
Sales 97,400 90,218 +7.4 97,616 -0.2
Sales by Type: Mar ‘13/Mar ‘12 Volumes
Change Pct Change
Passenger Vehicles -2,432 -4.8
Sports Utility +1,720 +6.3
Light Commercial +417 +2.5
Heavy Commercial +79 +3.1