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NZ sales: Kiwi market ‘savaged’ by COVID-19

Hit parade: Ford’s Ranger retained its status as the top-selling model in New Zealand last month, but 444 sales marked a 47.8 per cent decline over March 2019.

New-car sales plummet 37 per cent in March as New Zealand goes into full lockdown

3 Apr 2020

THE crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic on New Zealand’s new-vehicle market are plain for all to see with sales figures for March released this week showing new registrations plummeted 37.3 per cent.


The country went into full lockdown on March 25 as New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern declared a state of emergency and instituted an ‘Alert Level 4 – Eliminate’ strategy that effectively closed down every dealership, leaving them to simply retain an ‘on call’ arrangement for the servicing and repair of vehicles involved in the provision of essential services.


As was the case in Australia, foot traffic in showrooms had already slowed dramatically in New Zealand over the preceding three weeks, while the current Level 4 restrictions will remain in place for a month – unless extended – which means that April will be even harder hit, if not a complete wipe-out.


Figures released by the NZ Motor Industry Association this week show that only 8317 new vehicles were registered across New Zealand last month, compared to 13,271 in March last year.


MIA chief executive David Crawford described the market as being “savaged” as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.


“The month of March was already slowing due to supply constraints from shut-down manufacturing plants around the world, and then they ground to a halt when the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 was implemented,” he said.


“Year to date, the market is down 15.6 per cent – 6075 units – on the same period in 2019.


“The prospect for registrations during April remains bleak with the COVID-19 Level 4 alert planned to be in place for the majority of the trading month.”


The hits taken by the leading brands were substantial, with market leader Toyota faring the best with a 10.7 per cent downturn compared to March last year – its 1515-unit result handing it an 18.2 per cent share – while Holden was next on 835 units, suffering a 19.4 per cent decline.


Holden’s second position does not come as a surprise given that dealers were offering substantial discounts in an effort to clear their remaining stock as the lion brand closes down its operations and leaves the marketplace altogether over the next few months – just as it is in Australia.


Mitsubishi’s sales fell 43.3 per cent to 694 units, which was still enough for a podium position as Ford’s sales were cut in half (-50.2%) to 661 units and pushed the Blue Oval brand into an unfamiliar fourth position, even with Ranger retaining its title as New Zealand’s most popular model (444 units, -47.8%).


Nissan rounded out the top five with 520 sales, marking a 36.1 per cent trough, while Mazda suffered the deepest monthly decline among the dominant players, its sales down 54.2 per cent to only 499 units.


Suzuki, which still has a loyal following across the Tasman that sees it regularly feature among the leading brands, landed in seventh position, its 397 sales representing a 29.8 per cent write-down, while Kia, which has managed to find growth where others have not during the general market downturn in both Australia and New Zealand, could not weather the storm.


The South Korean brand finished in eighth place with 354 sales (-43.4%), remaining ahead of its usually dominant sister brand, Hyundai, which took a 51.0 per cent wallop with only 330 buyers to be found.


Volkswagen rounded out the top 10 with 268 sales (-42.8%), while on the outer fringes of the major players, Honda’s return was a lowly 263 units – 62.4 per cent fewer than March 2019, when it was in seventh position – while Mercedes-Benz recorded 245 sales (-32.6%) and Subaru 173 (-48.8%).


In year-to-date terms, Toyota is streets ahead of every other brand (5303 units), with the top five currently including Ford (3414), Mitsubishi (2752), Holden (2205) and Mazda (2145).


Among individual segments last month, combined passenger car/SUV sales were down 35.7 per cent to 5416 units, while commercial vehicles, which have been trending downward for several months, slipped 40.0 per cent to 2901 units.


The one positive note was found in the sales of pure-electric vehicles in New Zealand, with EVs up slightly for the month with 144 units sold. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were down at 58 units, while regular hybrids remained solid at 511.


The list of top-selling models last month has the Ford Ranger (444) just holding out Toyota’s HiLux (435) for first position.


From here, the ‘Bradbury effect’ looks to be play as the Holden Colorado (370) and Mitsubishi Triton (347) overtook Toyota’s RAV4 (318) and Corolla (240) to put mid-size utes in the top four placings.


Nissan’s Navara and Qashqai were next best on 198 and 173 sales respectively, ahead of Kia’s Sportage (162) and Suzuki’s Swift (159).


There was no Mazda among the top 10 models, with CX-5 left outside on 144 – less than half the number it racked up in March last year (310) and on par with the Mitsubishi Outlander, also on 144 last month.


Top 10 Brands March 2020




Share %


Toyota 1515 18.2


Holden 835 10.0


Mitsubishi 694 8.3


Ford 661 7.9


Nissan 520 6.2


Mazda 499 6.0


Suzuki 397 4.8


Kia 354 4.2


Hyundai 330 4.0


Volkswagen 268 3.2


Top 10 Models March 2020





Ford Ranger 444


Toyota HiLux 435


Holden Colorado 370


Mitsubishi Triton 347


Toyota RAV4 318


Toyota Corolla 240


Nissan Navara 198


Nissan Qashqai 173


Kia Sportage 162


Suzuki Swift 159

Source: NZ MIA

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