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NZ Sales: Strong March lifts Q1 results

Rolling along: The Toyota Corolla was the top-selling passenger car in New Zealand in the first quarter of 2016, but the third overall behind the HiLux and Ford Ranger.

Sales continue to rise year to date after a record March for commercials

6 Apr 2016


THERE is still no sign of the fall in new-vehicle registrations in New Zealand predicted by the industry at the start of 2016, with last month marking the strongest March in more than 30 years.

Motor Industry Association chief executive officer David Crawford said strong net immigration and end-of-financial-year deals drove sales to the strongest new-vehicle March tally since 1984, at 12,110, and the strongest commercial-vehicle registrations on record, with 3919.

Overall the market lifted 3.1 per cent to 34,284 for the first quarter, while the Westpac-McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index rose 3.3 points for the quarter to 104.8 – with anything above 100 indicating that optimists outweigh pessimists.

Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Anne Boniface said record levels of new migrants are filling new jobs created in the expanding economy, with employment confidence driven by Auckland, and rebuilding in the Canterbury region.

New Zealand’s favourite models year to date were the Ford Ranger (1904, including 72 rentals), Toyota’s HiLux (1345) and Corolla (1251, including 515 rentals), Mitsubishi’s Triton (942) and Toyota’s RAV4 (787, 221 of them rentals).

Following these were the Holden Colorado (756), Mazda CX-5 (721), Holden Commodore (718, 199 of them rentals), Nissan Navara (686) and Suzuki Swift (683).

Toyota continues to lead the market, but was down 1.7 per cent to 5650 units for the quarter, and the company's general manager sales and operations, Steve Prangnell, said he had anticipated a market drop of three or four per cent, and “the market is showing remarkable resilience”.

He said he expects it to soften mid-year, in part because of the lack of new product arriving for Toyota this year.

“As we’re 20 per cent of the total market, that slows the market slightly,” he said.

Mr Prangnell said almost 80 per cent of Toyota sales, and 70 per cent of overall sales, come from the fleet market and added that he had noticed some weakness in that sector.

He said the passenger segment remains strong overall, especially for brands with a solid SUV and ute line-up, given that between them those segments make up 53 per cent of overall sales.

Mr Pragnell said continued sales come on the back of high net migration and net gains from Australia for the first time since 1981.

The NZ sheep and beef industry are doing well and infrastructure projects in Auckland and Canterbury are continuing at a rapid rate, with market research firm Infometrics suggesting that while infrastructure work is largely complete in earthquake-ravaged Canterbury, the commercial and residential rebuild has only just begun – the area tops concrete consumption for the country.

The light-commercial-vehicle segment continues to be strong, accordding to Ford NZ general marketing manager Cameron Thomas.

With the Ranger pick-up as New Zealand’s most popular model, the Blue Oval continues to nibble away at the gap to Toyota, with first-quarter registrations up 29.4 per cent to 3971.

Ford’s popularity is now also getting a big lift from the Mustang sportscar, which Mr Thomas said is driving a lot of interest across the range.

GM Holden held third for the quarter, down 16.8 per cent to 3027 units.

The car-maker's general manager sales Sean Tupp said the numbers were disappointing compared with the same quarter last year, although Q1, 2015's sales were up 24.2 per cent on the year before.

Mr Tupp said he expects renewed interest in the brand as life-cycle changes come on stream for Spark, Cruze and Captiva, which has suffered product arrival delays.

Holden should benefit from a refreshed Colorado pick-up later this year as well as the arrival of the five-door Astra hatch by the year's end.

Mazda sold 2759, up 12.8 per cent, and Mitsubishi grabbed fifth overall, up 3.6 per cent to 2289 after a bumper March that saw it leapfrog Mazda and Holden to slot into third for the month.

Mitsubishi NZ general manager sales and marketing Warren Brown said that as March is the end of the financial year, the company targets the month for a big finish.

“We had a number of shortages on key product leading into March, but caught up, particularly with Triton, which sold 461 for the month,” he said.

Mr Brown said he does not anticipate a drop in the overall market this year, and expects Mitsubishi to continue to do well, in part thanks to strong television advertising campaigns.

“We don’t have a model every second week, so we have to go with what we’ve got.”

Nissan sales dropped 4.2 per cent to 2038, but the car-maker's managing director John Manley said he was happy given that “a couple of boatloads of stuff didn’t arrive”.

Mr Manley said he was confident that the market will at least hold position thanks to net inward migration and other key factors.

“Tourism is berserk, wine, meat and wool are doing well so there’s an air of optimism, and vehicles are always a good barometer,” he said. “Any negative sentiment, and vehicles feel it.”

Hyundai dropped 14.8 per cent to 1973 for the quarter, although an equally bereft Suzuki rose 19.3 per cent to 1359 after the Swift topped the passenger-car sales table for the March month.

Volkswagen dropped 14.3 per cent to 1302 and Honda rounded out the top 10 for the quarter, up 5.6 per cent to 1099.

NZ Top 10 makes March 2016
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