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New Zealand vehicle sales on the up

Number one: Commercial sales were strong, but the Toyota Corolla remains New Zealanders’ favourite car.

Strong commercial vehicle sales help drive quarterly growth in New Zealand market

General News logo8 Apr 2013

By JACQUI MADELIN in New Zealand

NEW Zealand new-vehicle sales have continued their strong start to the year, up 11.5 per cent in March compared to last year, while quarterly sales grew by 9.6 per cent.

Statistics from the Motor Industry Association (MIA) showed New Zealand’s dealers moved 9505 new vehicles last month compared to 8528 last year. Commercial vehicle registrations of 2705 were up 33.3 per cent, the highest March volume in 28 years.

The strong March result helped propel sales for the first three months to 26,744 units.

Again, Toyota was top dog, with 5246 sales year-to-date (or 1845 in March), an increase of 12.6 per cent and enough to claim 19.6 per cent of total market share.

Toyota New Zealand CEO Alistair Davis said the overall market result was higher than expected.

“It’s surprised us that the market is going so strongly given concerns about the drought and such strong growth in 2012,” he said.

“But the economic results from December quarter, when the economy grew 1.5 per cent in one quarter, meant we entered the year with more momentum than expected. GDP numbers from December indicate almost every sector is doing quite well and that’s carried through into car sales.”

As for Toyota’s performance, Mr Davis said the growth over the same time last year came partially because of its relatively weak first quarter sales in 2012, when it had restricted HiLux supply in the wake of the Thai floods.

“We have no particular constraints this year,” he said.

Holden is second year to date, up 19.8 per cent to 2626 units (904 of which were sold in March).

Managing director Jeff Murray said much of this growth came down to better supply of the new Colorado, the addition of the Colorado 7 SUV (around 20 units per month) and sharp pricing on the Captiva 5 compact SUV.

However, Mr Murray also said the first quarter across the board had been boosted by demo and pre-registration activity plus discounting on a level which “can’t be sustained for the next nine months the transactional prices some distributors are running on commercial and SUV are in excess of what they’d normally run at a Fieldays campaign.” Industry stocks are up around 20 per cent with dealer and wholesale numbers equating to 3100 units, he said. Meantime Mr Murray said he expected market numbers to settle back to around five per cent growth, with Holden sales continuing at around 10 per cent growth thanks to new product launches.

Ford finished in third for the quarter, up 3.5 per cent to 2487 units (but second in March with 928 sales), while Nissan finished fourth, up 27.4 per cent to 1974 sales (775 units in March).

The latter company had a good quarter for its Qashqai and X-Trail crossovers, with strong one per-cent finance offers reaching used car buyers.

Managing director John Manley agrees there is a cost to such campaigns, stating “they’re not sustainable but this is a strong product year for us and we’re looking to grow market share in a market up four to five per cent.”

Hyundai ended Q1 in fifth, sliding 14.7 per cent to 1906 sales (561 sales in March), while Mazda finished sixth thanks to 8.1 per cent growth and 1768 quarterly sales (604 units in March).

Mitsubishi followed this pair with 6.1 per cent growth for the first three months equating to 1492 sales (676 sales in March saw it climb to fifth for the month).

According to the company’s sales and marketing manager Warren Brown, the result was the “39th month of consecutive improvement in year-on-year sales.” “The growth in the market is still at odds with data on the economy and nothing else is improving at that pace,” he said.

“There must be a general lift in confidence, but I’d be surprised if growth continued at the same pace, and I’m expecting a five per cent lift for the overall market in 2013.”

Suzuki ended in eighth position after the first quarter, down 6.5 per cent to 1389 units (506 of which came in March). Sales manager Gary Collins said those segments in which it had most presence were down in general, hurting sales.

“We had a boomer of a start last year around Swift and the introduction of Swift Sport in February. This year we find the areas we compete in most strongly – the light and small segments – are taking a smaller percentage of the market with growth largely in ute and SUV soft-roaders, areas in which we don’t compete,” he said.

Mr Collins said growth was expected to drop, led by the drought-hit farming community.

“We’re seeing through motorbike experience that farmers are cutting back,” he said.

Volkswagen rose 25.2 per cent to 1263 for the quarter (419 units in March), with Honda rounding out the YTD top ten, up 43.2 per cent to 759 sales.

Commercials beat many passenger cars in the model tables for the quarter. Toyota’s Corolla retained model leadership with 1453 sold year-to-date, but it was followed by the Toyota Hilux (979) and Ford Ranger (883), with the Suzuki Swift (820) nudging ahead of Nissan’s Navara (755).

NZ Top 10 makes March 2013

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