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NZ Sales: Momentum slows but sales still hit records

Rav it up: Toyota’s RAV4 SUV was the fifth best-selling model in New Zealand in the first quarter of the year, with 841 sales.

SUVs soar as passenger cars shrink, but NZ still has best March since 1984

8 Apr 2015


NEW Zealand’s new-vehicles sales continued on strongly in March, as first-quarter registrations grew by 7.7 per cent over the same period last year, with 33,276 sales.

Motor Industry Association CEO David Crawford said the 11,755 new passenger and commercial vehicle registrations last month represented the “strongest March since 1984”.

March registrations for new vehicles were up five per cent, or 517 units on the same month in 2013, and eight per cent, or 2394 units year to date for January to March last year.

New-vehicle registrations continue to reflect a strong economy, according to Mr Crawford, which was further illustrated by continuing strong performance for light commercials.

The SUV segment took the lion’s share of sales for the quarter, at 31.4 per cent, followed by pick-up utes on 19.2 per cent and small cars on 15.5 per cent.

Large cars made up just 3.7 per cent of sales for the quarter, and the medium segment took 5.2 per cent.

This is in stark contrast to five years ago when SUVs owned 20.5 per cent of the market, pick-ups 13.9, large cars eight, medium 10.9 and small cars 23.1 per cent of sales.

The gap to the top has narrowed in the past five years. Toyota held 20 per cent market share in the quarter to the end of March 2010, with 3871 sales, compared with this year’s 17.2 per cent share at 5746 units.

But the Japanese car-maker still tops the new-vehicle sales table so far in 2015, 752 vehicles and 15.1 per cent above the same period in 2014.

Holden sits in second place, up 24.2 per cent to 3639 and a 10.9 per cent share.

Holden NZ managing director Kristian Aquilina told GoAuto that a difference in the timing of fleet deliveries last year affected that number, and added that the company was not impacted by stock availability as it has been in the past.

“It all came together for us, and we’re seeing that performance right across the range of vehicles, rather than relying on one or two car-lines,” he said.

Ford sales fell 6.5 per cent to 3069 for quarter one, and the company’s NZ marketing manager Chris Masterson said that was largely due to the introduction of new Mondeo, despite not getting the quantity it had hoped for from Europe.

The new-generation mid-sizer launches officially this month, and the company is also transitioning to an upgraded Kuga mid-size SUV.

According to Mr Masterson, Ford sales will settle once supplies begin to hit the dock, with the rest of the year looking positive for the brand. An upgraded Focus small car, new Everest SUV, Mustang sportscar and upgraded Ranger ute land before year-end, and pre-orders are strong.

He said Ford expects to see growth in market share as a result of the new-model onslaught.

Mazda is further into its model-range refresh, with the company’s national marketing manager Glenn Harris telling GoAuto that the brand’s 23.7 per cent increase to 2446 units over the same period last year is thanks to the number of new and upgraded model lines.

Mr Harris said Mazda2 and 3 are still new, and Mazda6 and CX-5 had a significant upgrade. Add around 30 press- and dealer-demo examples of the new CX-3 crossover, and that represents “five core car lines making headway and kicking goals for us,” according to Mr Harris.

He said that conservative pundits had not expected growth this year, but added that car carrier companies are suggesting a market of 135,000, around six per cent growth.

“But there are factors we haven’t quite seen come into play – the drought, milk prices, what that means outside Auckland.”

Mr Harris told GoAuto that Mazda’s network barometer says Auckland and Christchurch are selling strongly, but added that the fleet market is close to saturation point.

“Private buyers are increasing faster than fleet, and it only needs a change in economic confidence to affect private consumers quickly.”

Hyundai held station for this quarter, up 1.5 per cent to 2316, while Mitsubishi continued its steady growth, up 12.4 per cent to 2209.

Mitsubishi NZ head of sales and marketing strategy Daniel Cook said consistent month-on-month growth over five years comes down to a strong dealer network providing good service and generating a lot of repeat business, the Diamond Advantage warranty, and a strong model line-up.

Mr Cook predicted solid growth continuing for the brand, thanks to the new Triton utility coming on stream shortly, and a refreshed Outlander SUV arriving this month that could double that model’s volume.

Mr Cook said he does not predict a slump in sales overall, adding that sheep and beef farmers are offsetting a slow-down in diary spend.

“March is the first slow month, and it’s still respectable growth,” he said.

Nissan sales increased 2.9 per cent to 2128 units, Volkswagen’s by eight per cent to 1520, and Suzuki, still relying largely on its ageing Swift hatch, dropped 22.6 per cent to 1139.

Honda rounded out the top 10 at 1041 registrations, up 8.8 per cent on the same period last year, which itself was up 26.1 per cent over Q1 in 2013.

Honda sales and marketing manager Nadine Bell puts that largely down to the success of the Honda Jazz light car, and the launch of a facelifted CR-V at the end of January.

Those two car-lines make up the majority of the brand’s sales, and she said she is confident about the arrival of the HR-V crossover in the fastest-growing segment of the SUV category.

However Ms Bell said she does not yet have a date for its arrival, or a stock allocation, both delayed due to global demand.

New Zealand’s favourite model for the first quarter was the Toyota Corolla on 1385 sales, followed by Ford Ranger (1310). Then came Toyota Hilux (1298), Holden Commodore (875) and Toyota RAV4 (851).

Nissan Navara (800), Holden Colorado (764), Mazda3 (704),Toyota Yaris (655) and Mazda CX-5 rounded out the top 10.

NZ Top 10 makes March 2015
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NZ Top 10 makes year to date ending March 2015
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