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NZ sales: Kiwi car market ‘surprisingly strong’
New Zealand defies COVID-induced car sales downturn with 3.1 per cent growth in July
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6 Aug 2020
By TERRY MARTIN
THE New Zealand Motor Industry Association (MIA) has described the Kiwi car sector’s sales performance in July as “surprisingly strong” as 12,263 new vehicles were registered during the month – a rise of 366 units or 3.1 per cent over the corresponding month last year.
This might not be so remarkable were it not for the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, which has slammed every market across the world.
But New Zealand, which instituted a four-week hard-line lockdown in late March and has limited its total COVID-19 caseload to about 1500 people (with only about 20 cases still active), is now clearly reaping the benefits of its tough early actions, geographical isolation and relatively low population of only five million.
In handing down the latest sales results this week, which represent the second-highest July total on record, NZ MIA chief executive David Crawford said he anticipated the market would continue to tighten during the second half of the year.
But the July performance shows that consumers are ready to purchase and are turning to motor vehicles as international travel remains unavailable.
“Year to date the market is down 24.7 per cent in a year that is heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes July a surprisingly strong result given the worldwide economic conditions,” Mr Crawford said.
“Returning cashed-up Kiwis and alternative spending to international travel is thought to be behind the July result.
“However, as the year progresses the economic outlook is for a continuing tightening market.”
The growth was relatively even across the major vehicle categories, with a 3.5 per cent uptick for passenger cars and SUVs combined (8200 units) and 2.3 per cent for commercial vehicles (4063).
Toyota remained the dominant player, recording 2217 sales which marked a rise of 1.6 per cent on July last year and handed it an 18.1 per cent share of the market.
This was helped no end by RAV4 rising to become New Zealand’s top-selling model in July with 796 sales, up 80.1 per cent for the month and now 31.5 per cent ahead for the year. A whopping 641 of these – or 80.5 per cent – were hybrid variants.
The mid-size SUV turned in an eerily similar performance in Australia, leading all other models with a 78.1 per cent rise (on 4309 sales) that now places it 43.1 per cent ahead for the year.
The HiLux ute also had a positive run in New Zealand last month and came in third overall with 627 sales (+17.4%), deferring to the consistently strong Ford Ranger in second on 781 units (+18.9%).
Ranger helped Ford to second place on the table of New Zealand’s top brands, the Blue Oval brand enjoying a 19.6 per cent upswing in sales to 1246 units.
Besides the Australian-developed Ranger ute, positive contributions were made by the Escape (168, +136.6%), Transit (126, +26.0%) and Mustang (24, +84.6%).
Mitsubishi claimed third position on the back of 9.9 per cent sales growth last month, to 1041 units, which was spread across a broad range of models including ASX (265, +5.6%), Outlander (220, +49.7%), Eclipse Cross (76, +58.3%) and Pajero Sport (46, +21.1%).
The Triton ute was down 14.7 per cent with 383 sales, despite its status as the fourth best-selling model in the market.
Away from the podium, there were other striking similarities to the Australian market with Kia turning in another positive performance, as did Volkswagen, while a variety of other leading brands were well down in what continues to be a challenging and unpredictable trading environment.
Kia finished sixth with 719 sales, up 23.5 per cent on July last year thanks primarily to the all-new Seltos (184) and the all-important Sportage (320, +6.3%). Cerato was also up 62.3 per cent with 49 sales for the month.
Just ahead of the South Korean brand was Holden (774, -17.7%), which scored some useful rental sales volume with Acadia and Trax last month as it winds up its withdrawal from the market, and Mazda in fourth on 807 units (-14.7%).
Below Kia in seventh was Nissan on 609 units, down 15.5 per cent as key models such as Navara and X-Trail suffered double-digit declines, while Hyundai enjoyed a 4.1 per cent upswing to 562 units with Tucson leading the way (206, +24.8%) and the new Venue providing incremental growth (48).
Suzuki was ninth on 531 sales (-3.3%) and Volkswagen rounded out the top 10 with 442, which was 10.5 per cent more than it managed in July last year. Tiguan was VW’s top-selling model with 110 units (+37.5%).
Among the premium brands, Mercedes-Benz recorded 317 sales (+14.9%) across its entire range (including commercial vehicles), or 192 with just passenger cars and SUVs tallied, which was still enough to remain ahead of arch-rivals Audi (169, +15.0%) and BMW (167, +44.0%).
For the year to date, the New Zealand market is down 24.7 per cent – deeper than Australia’s 19.2 per cent YTD decline – after a string of negative year-on-year monthly results including hits of 17.5 per cent in June, 32.2 per cent in May and 90.2 per cent in April when the country was in full lockdown.
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