Tesla Model 3 shocks to join Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux on January 2023 sales podium

Tesla Model 3

Tom Hounslow, David Toscano

Posted February 07, 2023

The Tesla Model was Australia's third highest-selling car in January 2023, marking a new milestone as the first ever battery-powered vehicle to claim a spot on the new-car-sales podium, alongside perennial ute favourites: Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

Improving supply, surprise price cuts and the launch of highly anticipated new models helped power the Australian new car market to a flying start in 2023, according to January new car sales data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), recording an 11.9 per cent increase in new car sales year-on-year.

“This data is the best January result since 2018 and shows that the industry is continuing to recover following years of supply chain disruption and delay,” FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said.

While sales of all new cars were up across all buyer types and states across Australia in January, the biggest shock came from the appearance of the Tesla Model 3 on the new car sales podium as the nation’s third-highest selling car, placing ahead of the Mazda CX-3, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Isuzu D-MAX. The Californian EV pioneer delivered surprise price cuts of up to $3100 on Model 3 variants in the first week of January contributing to the uptick in sales, while states and territories boost subsides and incentives for Australians to transition to electric vehicles.

Combining the sales of fully battery-powered cars (EVs), hybrids, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), 10,426 cars were sold - accounting for 12.28 per cent of all new car sales in Australia. 

The Australian hunger for SUVs and utes is showing no signs of slowing down either. A total of 84,873 vehicles were sold in January of 2023, of which more than 76 per cent were SUV (55 per cent) and Light Commercial (21.9 per cent) sales. 

Last year’s sales champion, Toyota, again topped new car sales with 13,363 units sold in January, as the HiLux and RAV4  featured in the top 10 top-selling cars for the month. However, overall, the Japanese giant’s sales fell 12.8 per cent compared to January 2022, while Kia (6,006) continued to outsell its sister brand Hyundai (5,809).

Despite Toyota enjoying the highest number of sales for the month, it was the Ford Ranger who claimed the title as the most-sold car (4,749) in January - 613 units clear of the Hilux which placed second. Combined sales of the 4x4 and 4x2 versions of the Ranger accounted for an incredible 72 per cent of Ford sales for the month.

January 2023 was a good month for a host of challenger and premium brands. Audi (72.1 per cent year-on-year), GWM (up 115.2 per cent year-on-year), Ford (up 46.3 per cent year-on-year),  LDV (up 35.6 per cent year-on-year), MG (up 13.5 per cent year-on-year), MINI (up 84.2 per cent year-on-year), Porsche (up 38.9 per cent year-on-year), Skoda (up 105.8 per cent year-on-year), Subaru (up 32.3 per cent year-on-year), Volkswagen (up 66.7 per cent year-on-year) and Volvo (up 18.7 per cent year-on-year) were among the brands to grow sales.

The news wasn’t so good in January for Land Rover (down 46.9 per cent year-on-year), Jeep (down 31.2 per cent year-on-year) Mitsubishi (down 19.2 per cent year-on-year) and Mercedes-Benz (down 23.5 per cent year-on-year).

Australia's Cheapest Cars Survey 2022 | RACV

SUV market still white-hot in Australia

Australians continue to leave passenger cars such as sedans and hatches in favour of SUVs, as the family-friendly models accounted for more than 55 per cent of all new cars sold in January (46,698) - a 2.8 per cent increase from the same time in 2022.

Medium-sized SUVs were the dominant preference for buyers, accounting for more than 38 per cent of SUV sales as small and large SUVs shared a close 24 per cent and 23 per cent share of the SUV market.

Toyota's diverse range of SUVs saw them claim top spot in SUV sales in January, claiming 13.6 per cent of the market, buoyed by the Prado (1,182), new Corolla Cross (528), Landcruiser (996), and fan-favourite, the RAV4 (1,958). 

Mazda is hot on the heels of Toyota with 6,318 sales in the SUV market - accounting for 13.5 per cent of the market, largely thanks to the CX-5 medium SUV (2,189) and the CX-3 small SUV (2,417).

Top-selling small, medium and large SUVs in January 2023

  •  SUV Small < $45k: MG ZS, Mitsubishi ASX,  Mazda CX-30
  • SUV Small > $45K: Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, Kia Niro  
  • SUV Medium < $60K: Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson
  • SUV Medium > $60K: Tesla Model Y, BMW X3, Audi Q5
  • SUV Large < $70K: Ford Everest, Toyota Prado, Kia Sorento
  • SUV Large > $70K: Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Wagon, BMW X5, Audi Q7
Mazda CX 5

The Mazda CX-5 was the top-selling Medium SUV in January 2023. Image: Supplied

Ford Ranger tops ute sales leaderboard early 

Though the Toyota HiLux took top-honours as the most-sold car in Australia for 2022, it's the Ford Ranger who has flown out of the gates and taken an early lead with 4,749 units sold - making it not only the top-selling ute in Australia, but the top-selling car overall.

Australian buyers have favoured 4x4 variants in a big way to start the year, with 14,144 sales, compared to 2,174 2x4 models sold. 

As the heavyweights - Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger - duke it out over first and second spot, there is a tight battle emerging for the last spot on the 4x4 ute podium between the Isuzu Ute D-Max (1,637), Mazda BT-50 (1,169) and the Mitsubishi Triton (1,051).

 Top-selling 4x2 and 4x4 utes in January 2023

  • 4x2 utes: Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu Ute D-Max
  • 4x4 utes: Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Isuzu Ute D-Max

To find out more, check out our compilation of the electric utes coming soon to Australia.


2022 Ford Ranger Raptor first looks | RACV

Tesla Model 3 is Australia's top-selling passenger car

Buoyed by government rebates and incentives, higher fuel prices and new model launches, 2022 was a record year for battery electric vehicle (BEV), with the sales momentum continuing into the first month of 2023. EVs captured 5.7 per cent of new car sales in January, thanks to a bumper month for EV sales leader, Tesla.  

The Californian brand, headed by controversial CEO Elon Musk, sold 3,313 cars in January 2023, outselling legacy brands and premium rivals including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus in the process – a result inconceivable just a year ago.

Supply constraints impacted the brand’s other top seller, the popular Tesla Model Y SUV, with just 386 vehicles sold in January.

New market entrant and potential Tesla challenger, BYD, sold 267 units of the svelte Atto 3 medium SUV in December, in the model’s third month on sale. A whole fleet of Chinese EV brands are emerging to challenge Tesla’s supremacy and BYD is at the forefront, with more models expected to arrive in Australia in 2023.

BYD recently announced a new supply deal with car rental leader SIXT which will see 500 examples of the Atto 3 available for hire across the country, over the next 12 months. RACV Members get more with exclusive offers and discounts at SIXT, including the hire of electric vehicles.

Find out more about the electric passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles coming in 2023.


Cleaner Energy with EVs | RACV

Top 10 selling car brands – January 2023

  1. Toyota – 13,363 
  2. Mazda – 9,407 
  3. Ford – 6,624
  4. Kia – 6,006 
  5. Hyundai – 5,809 
  6. Mitsubishi – 5,276 
  7. MG – 4,015 
  8. Subaru – 3,601 
  9. Tesla – 3,313 
  10. Isuzu Ute – 2,617

Top 10 selling car models – January 2023

  1. Ford Ranger – 4,749
  2. Toyota HiLux – 4,131
  3. Tesla Model 3 – 2,927
  4. Mazda CX-3 – 2,417
  5. Mazda CX-5 – 2,189
  6. Toyota RAV4 – 1,958
  7. Isuzu Ute D-Max – 1,843
  8. MG ZS – 1,842
  9. Mitsubishi Outlander – 1,674
  10. Toyota Landcruiser – 1,631

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries VFACTS report, January 2023


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