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NZ’s taste in vehicles shifting

Media Release 17 January 2014

NZ’s taste in vehicles shifting

Rising fuel prices have had a significant effect on the makeup of the New Zealand vehicle fleet in recent years, says Motor Trade Association (MTA).

A review of the top-selling (combined new and used import sales) models over the five-year period between 2009 and 2013 shows sales during this period were dominated by smaller, four-cylinder models.

This sharply contrasts to the results of the previous five-year review (carried out in 2011), where there was a much wider spread in the most popular types of vehicles.

Between 2009 and 2013, smaller capacity engine cars were the order of the day. Toyota’s Corolla continued to dominate the market, both as a new vehicle and as a used import, with volumes almost evenly split during that time. It was a clear leader over the Suzuki Swift, Toyota Vitz/Yaris and Mazda Axela/3.

In fact, the only non-four-cylinder model to make it into the top 10, was the 10th placed Holden Commodore, almost entirely on the back of its sales as a new car.

This year’s review is the first to include commercial vehicles, and saw Toyota’s Hilux and Hiace models included, thanks to their sales as new vehicles, MTA spokesperson Ian Stronach says.

“At the start of 2009, 91 octane petrol was selling for roughly $1.63 a litre; by the end of 2013, it was close to $2.20 a litre. With petrol costs increasing around 35 percent in that time, it was entirely predictable that there would be a swing to smaller-engined cars,” Stronach says.

“The major surprise is that traditional favourites, like Subaru’s Legacy (from 2nd to 8th place) and the Holden Commodore (from 3rd to 10th) have dropped significantly down the order.”

The review also saw some familiar names drop out of the top 10 altogether, as many buyers have moved to different value imperatives. Those to drop out include long-time favourites such as Ford’s Falcon, BMW’s 3 Series and Subaru’s Impreza. The fall in relative popularity of “people movers” was also evident with previously favoured models, like Toyota’s Estima/Lucida and the Honda Odyssey, falling outside the top 10.

However, in some cases, changes in availability of vehicles as used imports from Japan were as much responsible for movements in final standings as shifts in buyer preference.

“Kiwis continue to have very strong bonds with their cars. But at the same time, they can be pretty hard-headed about it too. If conditions shift to any great degree, then yesterday’s favourites can quickly find themselves down the popularity ladder – and most that fall find it hard to ever reclaim their former spot,” Stronach says.

Top 10 vehicle models sold 2009–13 vs 2006–11 (combined new and used import sales of passenger and commercial vehicles)

1Toyota CorollaToyota Corolla
2Suzuki SwiftSubaru Legacy
3Toyota Vitz/YarisHolden Commodore
4Mazda Axela/3Suzuki Swift
5Toyota HiluxBMW 3 Series
6Mazda Atenza/6Toyota Estima/Lucida
7Mazda Demio/2Honda Odyssey
8Subaru LegacyFord Falcon
9Toyota HiaceSubaru Impreza
10Holden CommodoreNissan Primera




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