Aussies spend big on cars but choose fuel-saving models

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Australian drivers are increasingly choosing to buy hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Australian drivers are increasingly choosing to buy hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Almost one in four new cars bought in Australia is a low-emission vehicle, as hybrid and electric models claim a bigger share of the market.

But Australia’s love for large vehicles is still on the rise, with SUVs dominating and ute sales continuing to grow.

The findings were revealed in the car sales figures for May released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries on Wednesday, which also showed Australians bought a record number of vehicles during the month.

A Toyota Hilux ute that has been converted to an electric vehicle
Utes remain popular, making up three of the top five best-selling vehicles for May. (HANDOUT/SEA Electric)

Australian drivers increasingly chose hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles last month, with the cars representing 15.8 per cent of all new vehicles sold during the month compared to 7.9 per cent in 2023.

The trend has seen hybrid vehicles more than double in popularity during 2024, with sales of more than 66,000 hybrid cars compared to fewer than 30,000 during the same time in 2023.

Electric vehicle sales also rose during May, with more than 8900 battery-powered vehicles purchased, representing 8.1 per cent of all new cars, and more than 40,000 new EVs hitting roads during the first five months of the year.

The chamber’s chief executive Tony Weber said the results proved the automotive industry was moving to meet drivers’ demands.

“The continued growth highlights consumer confidence and the industry’s ability to meet diverse needs of Australian motorists despite current economic challenges,” he said.

“The Australian market is one of the most open and competitive in the world.”

Regardless of fuel consumption, however, large vehicles remained a popular choice for drivers, with SUVs making up more than half of vehicles sold and light commercial vehicles, such as utes, representing 22 per cent of new vehicles.

Utes also made up three of the top five best-selling vehicles for May, with Ford’s Ranger topping the list, followed by Toyota’s HiLux and, in fourth place, Isuzu’s D-Max ute.

Toyota again sold the most new vehicles during the month, with Ford, Mazda, Kia and Hyundai following.

The figures also showed sales for electric car leader Tesla dropped during the month, with the US firm selling 3567 vehicles during May compared to 4476 during the same time last year.

A Tesla electric vehicle recharging
Sales of Tesla cars dropped in May, compared to the same month last year. (Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/AAP PHOTOS)

Sales for its major electric vehicle rival BYD climbed, however, with the Chinese company selling 1914 electric vehicles during the month, up by 32 per cent on last year.

The growing number of electric and hybrid vehicle sales comes before the introduction of Australia’s first fuel-efficiency standard, which is due to be introduced in January.

The law will set emissions limits on automakers’ fleets for passenger vehicles and for large and commercial vehicles in an attempt to cut transport emissions by 2030.

AAP