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NZ sales slide takes its toll

Up market: Mercedes-Benz's newly-launched E-class helped to lift the luxury marque's volumes in New Zealand in August.

Management changes as NZ motor industry comes to terms with new reality

General News logo8 Sep 2009

By JACQUI MADELIN in New Zealand

THE New Zealand new-car sales slide continues to slow, but too late for some.

Motorcorp Distributors Ltd managing director Wallis Dumper – overseeing Renault, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo imports – leaves MDL in October after restructuring on the Motorcorp board. He also has resigned as president of the Motor Industry Association.

At Porsche NZ, general manager Grant Smith has departed, his role now covered by European Motor Distributors managing director Richard Giltrap.

These departures may surprise, given luxury sales have improved year on year. But the luxury market saw an early downturn in 2008, skewing comparison figures. Luxury buyers show early signs of confidence, but overall numbers for niche brands remain low.

Mr Giltrap said Porsche sold five vehicles in August, and the company had to deal in “absolute numbers”.

“We have to have a business operation scaled to sustainable numbers,” he said.

 center image Left: Porsche 911.

Mr Giltrap remains cautious. "I wouldn't say we are seeing a recovery at this stage, that's too aggressive a word, but definitely a stabilisation.

"We're not expecting the decline we've seen for the last 12 months. We're starting to see a base form, and the volume we're seeing now is like normalised volume. We need to structure our business around normalised volume." The NZ new-vehicle industry sold 5493 cars and commercial vehicles in August, down 25.4 per cent on August 2008.

Toyota still tops the table with 1018 sales, down 29.9 per cent for 18.5 per cent share, followed by Ford (692 sales, down 40.3 per cent), Holden (582 sales, down 19.1) and Mazda (434 sales, down 13.9), each holding similar market share to last year.

Hyundai and Kia figures remain buoyant. Hyundai sits in fifth for the month (363 sales, up 17.5) followed by Nissan (355 sales, down 8.7) and Mitsubishi (323 sales, down five per cent – with sales boosted by commercials on run-out).

In August, 2008 those places were held by Suzuki and Honda, which drop to eighth and ninth this year (at 275 and 225 sales respectively).

New product – and continued spend on marketing – appear key to 2009 sales.

Nissan NZ marketing operations manager Peter Merrie said: "Having five new models meant we could make more noise, which has a greater impact at a time when others have cut back on marketing." But Nissan commercial sales were poor in August. Mr Merrie said the export oriented rural sector had been disproportionately affected by the overseas slump.

"Overseas recovery is slower and it takes longer for that to filter back to primary producers," he said.

The Europeans are surging, with Mercedes showing an 8.9 per cent August increase year on year. Poor sales last year after restructuring skew the figures, although last month's E-class launch didn't hurt.

Year to date, NZ sales are down 31.4 per cent, to 45,384 units, over the previous year.

Toyota retains top spot, having sold 8699 units year to date, down 33.9 per cent.

Ford (5636 sales), Holden (4241) and Mazda (3659) continue to hold market share. Mitsubishi (1979 sales, down 54.9 per cent YTD) has struggled while it awaits new product in November to generate dealer traffic.

It's been replaced in the YTD tables by a buoyant Hyundai (3351 sales, up 3.4 per cent).

NZ Top 10 brands in August:
Rank Make Sales % Share
1 Toyota 1018 18.53%
2 Ford 692 12.60%
3 Holden 582 10.60%
4 Mazda 434 7.90%
5 Hyundai 363 6.61%
6 Nissan 355 6.46%
7 Mitsubishi 323 5.88%
8 Suzuki 275 5.01%
9 Honda 225 4.10%
10 Kia 185 3.37%

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