THE champagne corks have barely popped after a record 2012 for car sales and already some are predicting the fizz to go out of the car market.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries announced a record 1.1 million new car sales after what it said was increased competition, low tariffs and a strong dollar making exports more competitive.
But the chamber's chief executive, Tony Weber, predicted sales would soften to 1.075 million this year with a federal election and increased supply likely to dampen sales.
Others in the industry are more pessimistic, claiming the 2012 figure is artificial, propped up by carmakers registering cars before they have an owner to meet aggressive sales targets.
One industry executive, who declined to be named, said the real market was 750,000 to 800,000, and that dealers registered thousands of unsold vehicles to meet manufacturers' targets and collect bonuses.
Chamber figures count registrations only and some makers exploit the loophole.
The phenomenon, while not new, has grown this year as European manufacturers have pushed big volumes into the local market to compensate for dismal sales on the Continent.
Mr Weber defended the practice of registering cars without owners and said the cars would ultimately find buyers.
"I think the number we have here is a very valid number," he said.
"There's some discussion about the numbers but we have no reason to doubt them at this time. The reality is you cannot actually bring forward sales and make that a sustainable measure because ultimately those cars need to be sold."
Toyota's sales and marketing boss, Matt Callachor, said the boom in car sales was due to rising affordability: earnings were up, interest rates down and car prices had remained stable.