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NZ Sales: Record February tops 10,000

Surprise entry: Kia's just-launched Sportage SUV was the equal fourth best-selling vehicle in NZ last month – tying with the Mazda CX-5 – with 236 sales.

New-vehicle sales in NZ continue slow but steady rise in 2016

3 Mar 2016


THERE is no sign of the sales plateau predicted by New Zealand's new-car distributors with February’s tally of 10,313 vehicles the highest on record, and the first time the month’s sales have topped 10,000 since 1984.

NZ Motor Industry Association (MIA) chief executive officer David Crawford said the solid result was due to a number of factors that helped keep the economy ticking along.

“Strong net immigration, a healthy tourism sector and a competitive market are helping to drive new vehicle sales, which is already year to date three per cent (662 units) ahead of this time last year,” he said.

February’s overall tally is up 4.4 per cent on the same month in 2015, with 7192 passenger and 3121 commercial vehicles sold – the latter also the strongest on record.

With the recent strong growth of the SUV segment, the MIA now breaks the segment into a number of individual categories, and has also separated 4x2 and 4x4 pick-ups.

New Zealand’s most popular segments are the mid-size SUV and 4x4 pick-up segments, both on 13 per cent with 1385 units, followed by small (12 per cent) and large SUV brackets on 12 and 11 per cent respectively.

New Zealand’s most popular model remains Ford’s Ranger (582), followed by the Toyota HiLux (444), Mitsubishi Triton (289), Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5 (both 236).

Outside the top five was Toyota’s Corolla (231), followed by Holden Colorado (229), Nissan Navara (221), Toyota RAV4 (214) and Suzuki Swift (191).

Toyota continues to lead the market, up 2.4 per cent to 1559, with Ford firmly in second place, up 29.6 per cent to 1266. New managing director Simon Rutherford – who took over the New Zealand reins on January 1 – said the company was in full launch mode last year, and now has full availability of a number of new product lines.

Mr Rutherford said his focus will be a balanced portfolio, as well as working on consumer experience, which he sees as being a big brand differentiator in the coming years.

He said macro economic data suggested that the economy is relatively steady, and added that he was focussed on the company's relationship with the dealer network.

“I think the industry will change a lot over coming years and the buyer and ownership experience needs to transform,” he said.

GM Holden sales fell 7.9 per cent to 894, but general manager sales Sean Tupp said the car-maker had forecast this result, with life-cycle refreshes and models in run-out. The new Spark micro hatch arrives in March, while the Cruze Z Series, and facelifted Captiva 7 have just launched.

Mr Tupp said other new products arriving in the coming months included the facelifted Colorado pick-up, the five-door Astra hatch that has just won European Car of the Year, and the facelift Trax crossover.

Mr Tupp forecast a decrease in the overall market this year, and a similar pattern for Holden.

“The rental market may come back as some companies are shifting to longer holding periods, so rental turnover may be slow,” he said.

Nissan sales rose 6.2 per cent to 834 while Nissan’s numbers lifted 10.5 per cent to 704. Managing director John Manley said the numbers are contingent on when boats arrive.

“The boat from England comes in on the last few days of the month, and if it doesn’t come in, whoops,” he said.

Mr Manley added that some months two boats arrive, and then it is a matter of stock allocation, with Qashqai and X-Trail permanently subject to allocation from the factory.

As for the market overall, Mr Manley said he does not expect it to drop this year.

“Once upon a time if dairy fell over, NZ fell over, but we now have a couple of strings to our bow – tourism figures are astronomical, wine is good – that prevent us falling over in morbid shock.”

Mitsubishi sales rose 2.8 per cent to 701, Hyundai dropped 28.2 per cent to 538 and Volkswagen sales fell 15.3 per cent to 411.

Kia had a strong month, lifting a spectacular 60.9 per cent to 407 units, almost entirely on the back of the new Sportage, which launched in late-February.

The car-maker's NZ general manager Todd MacDonald said he was not surprised by the take-up given the early popularity of the previous model.

“If you go back to 2010, the third-generation car was an outstanding success then, and I expect those early adopters are early adopters now, as these sales are dealers contacting existing numbers,” he said.

Mr MacDonald said while dealers are advertising, Kia will not do so until it catches up on stock, as the volume of uptake has taken him by surprise.

Suzuki rounded out the top 10, up 23.8 per cent to 364. That increase over the same month last year came in part due to February 2015’s 30 per cent drop over February 2014, although this year was boosted by a small increase in Swift, and strong numbers for the new Vitara crossover, with the strongest retail month since it launched.

With used-import sales holding strong – its numbers and trends continue to mirror new-car sales – the New Zealand industry is showing no signs of flagging just yet.

NZ Top 10 makes February 2016
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