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NZ’s annus horribilus ends 28 per cent down

Bright spot: Mazda3 sales went up in NZ last year - a rare highlight in a tough year in the market.

After a struggle for sales in 2009, NZ motor industry now chases stock

General News logo13 Jan 2010

By JACQUI MADELIN in New Zealand

NEW Zealand new-vehicle sales fell 28 per cent last year, but the industry predicts stock shortages as it enters 2010.

The 70,048 total for 2009 was dead-on industry predictions. The 54,404 passenger figure was down 25.9 per cent on 2008, but commercials took the biggest hit, coming in at 15,644 – a 34.6 per cent fall on the previous year's 23,933.

Used imports also fell, to 71,911 - down 27.9 per cent on 2008's 99,701 units.

Long-time market leader Toyota again headed the annual table with 15,239 sales, down 28.9 per cent on 2008 for 21.8 per cent share.

Ford continued in second (8529 sales, down 30 per cent) with Holden third (6538 sales, down 29) and Mazda fourth (5697 sales, down 20.7).

Hyundai consolidated fifth, with 5042 sales, followed by Nissan on 4323 (down 26.1 per cent) and Suzuki on 3735 (down 34.3). Mitsubishi recovered slightly to end the year on 3117, down 46.3, with Honda ninth on 2771 and Kia 10th on 2133.

December's new-vehicle industry total of 4985 was 26.9 per cent down on that month last year.

 center image Left: Toyota Corolla. Below: Ford Fiesta.

Motor Industry Association CEO Perry Kerr said: "December is traditionally a quiet month for new vehicle sales and last year was no exception.

"Clearly, the financial crisis has had a dramatic impact on new vehicle sales.

"Members of the association, however, had anticipated this and the final numbers were in line with industry forecasts.

"The New Zealand car market has not had the benefit of support schemes such as ‘cash for clunkers’ or ‘accelerated business depreciation’ that have been implemented in other markets.

“Accordingly the industry has faced the full force of the recession." With the number of unsold new vehicles at an all-time low, Mr Kerr predicts stock shortages.

Mazda NZ managing director Andrew Clearwater agrees. "Everyone is being cautious about forecasting, which may mean stock shortages certainly ours is the lowest I've ever seen it," he said.

"It's a balancing act. No one wants to get caught with high levels of stock and if the market took off tomorrow customers would have to wait." Mazda was a winner last year on the strength of its small and compact cars, along with its presence in the commercial ute sector. It gained a record market share for the year, selling more Mazda3s than in 2008.

Market share was the story for most manufacturers. Market leader for the 22nd consecutive year, Toyota again led both passenger and overall sales in 2009.

Toyota general manager sales and operations Steve Prangnell said Toyota NZ's two targets for the year were to hold market share and to keep the 54-dealer network intact.

"We didn't lose a dealer, which was a major objective as we headed into recession and the private buyer and smaller fleets abandoned the market – and they are all dealer sales," he said. "Without a dealer network you can't make sales and you can't recover." Mr Prangnell forecast only a small lift next year, to 75,000 units.

“We're seeing small-medium growth,” he said. “Lots of competition fragmenting that lower end and we don't think we're out of the woods yet.

“For the car market, it's all about GDE – gross domestic expenditure – not GDP (gross domestic product), and GDE is still tracking down." Audi topped the luxury table for the third year in a row, NZ being one of only five countries in which Audi has done so.

Audi NZ general manager Dane Fisher said Audi's quattro, wagon and SUV line-up suited Kiwi lifestyles.

He said that although 2009 was a challenging year, luxury market would lead the way out of recession.

“We have certainly seen a lift, though I think it will be a gradual one," he said.

The biggest mass market winners were the Koreans, with Kia up 16.4 per cent and Hyundai up 6.8 per cent. But Honda took a big hit, falling 51.9 per cent.

Its managing director, Graeme Seymour, said: "The year was the worst since 1975 for the market we play in [passenger cars excluding rental and fleet] so it's a hard year, and our customer base is hiding under the blankets." Mr Seymour said Honda had not used price to “drive volume for the sake of volume”.

“So we're not unhappy – we're focused on a longer game," he said.

Mr Seymour expects Honda NZ to recover over two or more years, "in parallel with the private market, which tends to be a little slower, and more conservative”.

Overall, most main players held market share. Only Mitsubishi and Honda lost significant ground – dropping share and places last year to this – while Hyundai and Kia lifted, the latter entering the top 10 as VW slipped out.

NZ top 10 makes for 2009:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 15,239 21.76%
2 Ford 8529 12.18%
3 Holden 6538 9.33%
4 Mazda 5697 8.13%
5 Hyundai 5042 7.20%
6 Nissan 4323 6.17%
7 Suzuki 3735 5.33%
8 Mitsubishi 3117 4.45%
9 Honda 2771 3.96%
10 Kia 2133 3.05%
Source: MIA NZ

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