New vehicle sales in Australia plunged almost 30 per cent in August, with the market feeling the brunt of stage four coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.
Demand for new cars and commercials in Victoria crashed by more than 65 per cent, with just 8347 vehicles retailed last month, prompting industry calls for greater moves to open up the economy.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said while the overall industry was showing some response to stimulus packages, the story for Victoria was less than promising.
"The industry has moved swiftly to implement robust COVID-safe protocols to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees and customers is preserved," he said.
"However, it is particularly difficult for our members and their Victorian dealer networks under the current stage four restrictions, and this is reflected in the reduced sales figures."
Mr Weber said while the industry had the utmost respect for essential health priorities, it supported the reopening of the economy under appropriate protocols.
"We've seen 29 consecutive months of diminishing sales in this industry, and there's no doubt our members are feeling the pinch," he said.
"The move to commence the reopening of industry and markets, especially in Victoria, needs to start now."
The Australian Automotive Dealers Association also backed the call for easing restrictions on businesses after reports on Wednesday that the national economy contracted by seven per cent in the June quarter.
"Yesterday Australia entered its first recession in nearly 30 years, but the new car industry has been in recession for nearly 30 months," association chief executive James Voortman said.
"The numbers in Victoria are particularly alarming with a 66 per cent sales contraction.
"Dealers in that state are hopeful of an announcement on Sunday that will allow them to return to trade."
Across the country, sales were down 28.8 per cent last month to 60,986.
On a year-to-date basis that left demand down 20.4 per cent to 575,906.
Toyota was the top-selling brand in August with 12,449 units, followed by Mazda on 6921, Hyundai with 4525, Kia with 4521 and Mitsubishi with 4308.
Toyota also had the top-selling car with 4825 of the various Rav4 models snapped up by new owners.
The Ford Ranger was the next best with 2935 sales followed by the Mazda CX-5 on 1884.