BLOSSOM and Frances Mackey joined thousands of other people last month when they brushed off the general malaise affecting consumers to lash out on a new car.
The couple had persisted with their old Ford Falcon for more than a decade.
When they bought a Great Wall SUV in Parramatta, they were among almost 95,000 people nationally who purchased new cars.
The figure was up almost 10 per cent on the same period last year. For SUVs in particular, sales were up 21 per cent.
"We saw an add on TV and ended up in the shop," Mrs Mackey said, "and the price was really good for a new car."
The price of new cars imported from overseas has been helped by a high Australian dollar.
And with consumers still sheepish, car dealerships are offering interest rates of one per cent or less to encourage sales. Greg Case from Grand Motors in Auto Alley said sales figures hid a vulnerable market.
"'When people have concerns about keeping their jobs, mortgages come first," he said. "Consumer confidence is just a vague word; it's not a tangible thing you can hang on to.
It doesn't matter what market you're into, everyone seems to be down."
Mr Case's assessment was backed by the numbers. Sales figures rose just 0.2 per cent in August from July, when they slipped 0.8 per cent.
Parramatta Chamber of Commerce member Robert Darroch said retailers were not faced with a slump in the economy so much as a "consistent deterioration in consumer spending".
He said businesses needed to streamline costs and look at new marketing strategies to beat the trend down.