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NZ Sales: Market surpasses whole of 2015
Despite earthquakes, NZ records strongest November on record for new-vehicle sales
5 Dec 2016
By JACQUI MADELIN in NEW ZEALAND
NEW Zealand new-car sales have already topped 2015’s year-end tally with a month to go, thanks in part to a record haul in November, with sales up 18.2 per cent on the same month last year despite the major earthquakes mid-month.
Motor Industry Association chief executive officer David Crawford confirmed that the tally of 13,740 vehicles was “the strongest month of November on record,” with 135,544 new vehicles registered in New Zealand year to date compared with 134,234 for the whole of 2015.
Mr Crawford said the market was responding to strong net immigration, low cost of debt, strong regional economies and a high level of business confidence, all of which are expected to continue into 2017.
The total includes 9722 passenger vehicles, up 20 per cent on the same period last year – and a November record – plus 4018 commercial registrations.
Toyota led passenger sales, followed by Holden and Mazda, while Ford topped commercial registrations, followed by Toyota and Holden.
SUVs remain New Zealand’s strongest segment with a 17 per cent share for medium, and 13 per cent for large SUVs, followed by utes with 12 per cent for 4x4.
SUVs are set to exceed passenger cars for the year, for the first time.
New Zealand’s top model in November was Ford’s Ranger, with 777 registrations, including 107 rentals, followed by the Toyota Corolla (581, including 303 rentals), Toyota HiLux (483), Holden Colorado (388) and Hyundai Tucson (381, of which 192 were rentals).
Kia’s Sportage (352, including 100 rentals), the Holden Captiva (330, including 184 rentals), Mitsubishi Outlander (272), Mazda CX-5 (264) and Mitsubishi Triton (263) rounded out a top 10, which included just one traditional passenger car.
Toyota led the market with 2280 sales, the only one of the top 10 brands to drop – by 12.9 per cent from November 2015.
GM Holden sat in second, up 22.6 per cent to 1579 sales. The company’s general manager of sales Sean Tupp told GoAuto that rental volume gave the brand a significant boost, in a buoyant rental market.
Mr Tupp said the 7.5 quake centred in Kaikoura affected retail sales in Wellington – with part of the CBD closed and a number of buildings being demolished after earthquake damage – and in the top of the south island.
“We’ve called some risk for this month from the back of the earthquake situation, there’s a general feeling of apprehension (in the south island) which will impact on retail sales,” he said.
Mr Tupp said it may settle down in the longer term if the aftershocks slow, otherwise there could be some continuing impact.
He added that the top of the south island delivers a large rental market based on tourism, and while tourists may still come, they could go elsewhere.
In addition, Mr Tupp said there have been hiccups and delays caused by a partial closure of Wellington’s docks and increased travel time to Christchurch, with a long stretch of Highway One and its parallel rail line closed, but he said logistics service providers were finding other methods, like trans-shipping to Lyttelton, near Christchurch.
Ford registrations lifted 18.1 per cent to 1489, while Mazda rose 14.1 per cent to 969.
Mitsubishi had a strong month – with sales up 56.2 per cent to 906 – and the company’s head of sales and marketing strategy Daniel Cook said the brand benefitted from the strong SUV market.
“New Outlander and ASX drove most of the demand for us, with Outlander launched in October and ASX in November.”
He cited increased rural confidence with dairy prices improving, plus the buoyant economy, strong house prices and low interest rates.
The earthquake caused slowing in the retail market in the Blenheim and Christchurch regions, and he said he expected a short-term slowing in retail interest. But he’s already noted a lift in fleet sales as companies gear up for the long infrastructure rebuild in the affected areas.
However, Mr Cook said with people displaced from buildings and traffic flow affected, Wellington was “a bit of a mess”.
“The week of the quake Wellington was busier than normal, perhaps because a lot of people couldn’t go to work, so they went out and bought cars.”
Wellington port took a major hit, which initially impacted car transport as it’s the jump-off point to the south island, but Mr Cook said they were now heading out.
“But there’s not as much transport and there are delays. Transport companies can’t gear up overnight to meet longer routes and greater demand, and it’s hard to know how that might impact sales. There are bottlenecks, but the cars are getting through.”
Hyundai sales rose 25.3 per cent to 808, and Nissan lifted 18.1 per cent to 737.
Kia sales were up 53.9 per cent to 531, while Suzuki registrations grew 40 per cent to 483.
Suzuki general manager of motor vehicles Garry Collins said that Vitara continued to be a strong performer, helping to grow overall numbers, and with S-Cross and Jimny doing well in the SUV sector and a good result from Swift, the market was solid.
“We had a bit of a dip in sales mid-month around the earthquakes, but people seem to have got over that quite quickly, and sales have got off strongly this month, too,” he said.
Mr Collins said Suzuki had stored vehicles at Wellington, and that ability was impacted by the quakes, but a change in procedures and a plan to store more at Auckland and Lyttelton should resolve that.
“Longer term there will be investment in infrastructure and building repairs and improvements, which could be a good thing for the vehicle sales industry longer term,” he said.
Volkswagen rounded out the top 10, up 18.2 per cent to 436.
Notable among the big movers for November was Isuzu Ute, which reached 14th place on the sales table. Its November 2016 sales rose 71.8 per cent over November 2015, to 244 units.
Isuzu Utes NZ general manager Murray Greenhalgh said it arrived late to the NZ market,and has been sold under its own brand since 2010, adding, “what we are seeing is some traction in the brand itself, where it’s starting to be recognised in its own right”.
Mr Greenhalgh said that was assisted by its narrow focus – it only sells utes and SUVs – as well as recognition of the heavy commercial range.
“Isuzu trucks are popular here, so there’s already market acceptance in the commercial segment for Isuzu, which is hand-in-glove with ute sales.”
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