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NZ sales: Lockdown cruels Kiwi car sales

Most wanted: NZ’s top-selling model in April was the Kia Seltos, with dealers delivering to customers who had clearly pre-ordered the small SUV and were keen to take possession as soon as the lockdown ended.

COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand sees new-vehicle sales plummet 90 per cent in April


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12 May 2020

NEW Zealand’s motor industry experienced a calamitous 90 per cent downturn in new-vehicle sales last month, showing what a hard-line lockdown of a country and economy does to an industry as its government responds to the global coronavirus pandemic.


Whereas Australia’s new-vehicle market plunged 48.5 per cent, New Zealand’s car industry was shut down under an ‘Alert Level 4 – Eliminate’ strategy on March 25 and only came out to a new, but still highly restrictive, Level 3 on April 28.


Dealers were prevented from opening their showrooms unless authorised under strict regulations which stipulated that sales could only be made to those individuals and businesses involved in carrying out essential services.


As a result, a mere 1039 sales were recorded across the entire industry, down 90.2 per cent (or 9601 units) on the 10,640 racked up last April, which was an all-time record for the month.


New Zealand Motor Industry Association (MIA) chief executive David Crawford described the result as “abysmal” but nonetheless fully expected as the Ardern government placed the country into lockdown with the full support of the car industry.


“The month of April was closed for business other than for the supply of essential vehicles and three business days at the end of the month for contactless sales,” he said.


“That distributors were able to sell as many as they did was testament to their determination to partially reopen for business while maintaining strict health and safety processes.”


The industry is now on the slow, painful road to recovery, and could receive an unexpected boost in the months ahead if the country opens up to Australia and an influx of tourists from across the Tasman stimulate growth in New Zealand’s all-important rental vehicle sector.


The MIA is also calling for various government stimulus measures to kickstart the auto sector.


Only two rental vehicle sales were recorded last month, both examples of Isuzu’s N Series light truck. Across the market, commercial vehicle sales were down 91.4 per cent, while combined passenger car/SUV sales of 707 units marked an 89.6 per cent freefall.


As we saw with the Australian figures, COVID-19 had a remarkable influence on the results, with Kia emerging as the market leader in New Zealand last month with 169 sales, which marked a 68.5 per cent downturn on April last year.


This looks to have everything to do with pre-orders – and perhaps orders placed online during the lockdown – for its all-new Seltos small SUV, with contact-free deliveries made in the last few days of the month.


Kia recorded 95 sales of the Seltos, which made it the top-selling model across the market and placed it clear of the Toyota HiLux (59), Holden’s soon-to-disappear Colorado (38), the Suzuki Swift (35) and even New Zealand’s usual bestseller, the Ford Ranger (29).


Most other brands experienced sales troughs of more than 90 per cent, including the market-leading brand, Toyota, which last month fell 92.7 per cent with only 132 sales.


Suzuki bucked the trend slightly, posting 102 sales (-77.9%) with a rush on its Jimny at the end of the month (28), while every other leading brand recorded highly damaged COVID-hit results of between 85 and 96 per cent in arrears.


These included Hyundai (91, -85.2%), Holden (88, -87.9%), Mazda (52, -93.1%), Ford (49, -95.7%), Honda (39, -87.2%), Mitsubishi (37, -95.9%) and Nissan (27, -95.7%).


As it did in Australia, BMW also managed to snag a leadership position in the premium market with 15 sales, but there is no indication at this stage that this will be sustainable. 


For the year to date, the NZ market is down 31.6 per cent (15,676 units) on the same period in 2019. Toyota is well ahead with 5434 sales, with Ford next on 3462, followed by Mitsubishi (2788), Holden (2292) and Kia (2234).

Top 10 Brands April 2020

Ranking Brand Sales Share% 
1 Kia 169 16.3
2 Toyota 132 12.7
3 Suzuki 102 9.8
4 Hyundai 91 8.8
5 Holden 88 8.5
6 Mazda 52 5.0
7 Ford 49 4.7
8 Honda 39 3.8
9 Mitsubishi 37 3.6
10 Nissan 27 2.6

Top 10 Models April 2020

Ranking Model Sales
1 Kia Seltos 95
2 Toyota HiLux 59
3 Holden Colorado 38
4 Suzuki Swift 35
5 Ford Ranger 29
6 Suzuki Jimny 28
7 Kia Rio 24
8 Holden Commodore 23
9 Kia Sportage 22
10 Toyota HiAce 21


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