CANBERRA – Australian motor vehicle sales set their 12th consecutive monthly record during April, as deliveries of 71,305 vehicles topped like-2003 by 3.5%.

Sales here for the first four months of the year are running 9.2%, or 25,142 vehicles, ahead of year-ago’s pace, according to Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries data.

Toyota Australia sales rose 11.% in April, thanks in part to the Camry.

Last month the chamber forecast full-year sales of 960,000 units – well ahead of the record of 909,000 units delivered last year. Some industry insiders say sales could top the 1 million mark.

"Vehicle sales continue to be very robust, and there is every indication that the industry remains on track towards another record year," chamber CEO Peter Sturrock says in a statement.

April light-truck sales rose 18% over like-2003. SUV deliveries climbed 4.3%, while the passenger-vehicle market declined 1.2%.

"The continued strength of commercial vehicles reflects improving business conditions and the resilience of the Australian economy," Sturrock says.

Toyota was the top brand in April with 15,068 sales, well ahead of both Holden (13,190 units) and Ford (9,547).

Year-to-date Toyota Motor Corp. Australia Ltd. now leads Holden Ltd. by 6,784 vehicles and has 21.1% market share to Holden's 18.8% and Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd.'s 13.4%. Toyota is 22,726 units ahead of Ford.

Toyota Australia’s 15,068 sales mark an 11.5% improvement from the same month last year, and year-to-date Toyota sales are up 12.1%.

Scott Grant, Toyota divisional marketing general manager, says the results reflect the strength of Toyota's SUVs and light commercial vehicles.

"Many of these vehicles are already leading their segment, yet we are still seeing growth of between 15% and 30% on last year's record results," he says. "You might expect to see that type of growth if your sales were coming off a low base. To achieve those figures with volume-sellers is a great testament to the ongoing appeal of the range."

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s sales are up 16.3% year to date, while Mazda Motor Corp.’s deliveries have climbed 13.1% so far.

Mazda finished fourth in the sales race last month, the brand's highest placing since it arrived in Australia in 1959. With 4,547 sales, Mazda outsold all of its full-line import rivals and local manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd. Mitsubishi sales fell 20% to 17,895 units.

Mazda's record April result – making it a clean sweep of record monthly performances this year – was up 7.2% on year-ago and gave it a 6.4% market share. Year-to-date Mazda has sold 18,414 vehicles, up 13.1% on 2003.

Mazda Australia Managing Director Malcom Gough says he expects the new Mazda3 – sales of which totaled 2,057 units in April – to deliver the company's best small-car performance ever and help achieve its overall sales target of a record 50,000 units this year.

"The overall market is also being influenced by the very strong performance of the two major importers – Nissan and Mazda," Sturrock notes.

DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler and Jeep units achieved combined sales of 620 vehicles in April, giving the group its second biggest April on record. The tally represents a 42% rise on year-ago sales. So far in 2004, Chrysler/Jeep sales are up 25%.

For the third consecutive month and year-to-date, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. ranked fifth in passenger-car sales and ahead of Mitsubishi. Hyundai sales in April totaled 3,152, up 69%. It has sold 12,756 vehicles this year, up 58%.

Within the passenger-vehicle market, a significant monthly gain was posted by the prestige segment, up 83.6%.

Within the SUV market, medium SUV sales were up 23.6% and luxury model deliveries rose 26.4%.

In the light-truck market, the Pickup Cab Chassis segments were entirely responsible for the growth – with 4x2 sales up 31% and 4x4 deliveries up 24.6%.

Heavy-truck sales rose 30.6% over like-2003.