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Relentless growth of SUVs in NZ car market

Relentless growth of SUVs in NZ car market

Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are now the most popular new cars sold in New Zealand, with 25,000 of the vehicles hitting roads across the country in 2012.

Summarising a record-breaking 2012, and looking ahead to further growth in 2013, Toyota New Zealand CEO Alistair Davis says that apart from a blip in sales associated with the global financial crisis, the New Zealand SUV market has been on a “relentless growth path” locally – mirroring the worldwide trend.

Toyota’s RAV4, the market leader in the small SUV category, is credited with igniting the SUV sector, largely because its revolutionary design moved away from the huge petrol consumption and outsized vehicles of the past. The vehicle’s fuel economy today is as good, or better, than passenger cars sold just a few years ago – at 8.5L/100km it comes in under the previous generation Camry (8.9) and is close to the previous generation Corolla (7.5).

Mr Davis says the ability of manufacturers like Toyota to adapt to changing customer tastes has ensured the SUV market’s phenomenal success.

“Today, large models make up a tiny sliver of the SUV market,” he says. “More than 90 per cent sold now are mid-size or smaller, front-wheel or all-wheel drive.”

“Our new best sellers like the new generation RAV4 have fantastic on-road handling and performance. The lighter weight construction, more sophisticated suspension systems and better balance between two-wheel and all-wheel drive make for a great driving experience. And, an increased range of drive trains, fuel options and transmissions provides customers with plenty of choice to suit their needs.”

Toyota’s newest RAV4 model is currently being released, and is expected to help raise the company’s growth for new car sales by around three per cent overall this year, says Mr Davis. New Zealand’s new vehicle market overall grew by 20 per cent last year, substantially outpacing the country’s general economic growth of two per cent.

As the market leader in new car sales for the past 25 years, Mr Davis says Toyota is heartened by current market conditions and is aiming to get back to a market share position of 23 per cent. The 2012 sales results augured well for that, proving a record year for Toyota in the new and used vehicle categories.

“There are a number of contributing factors to the strength of the overall market, such as an economy heading in the right direction, the price of new vehicles falling in real terms, and a trend to buying smaller, more affordable vehicles,” he says.

“Certainly the cost of new vehicles, including those from Toyota, have appreciated over time, but we’ve calculated the our base price for the Corolla has increased just 1.75 per cent each year in the past 25 years – which is pretty modest when you consider the amazing advances in technology.”

Toyota NZ launched 11 new models into the local market over the past 15 months, reporting that all models have seen substantial growth. The large number of new products ensures Toyota stays ahead of the pack in an ever-changing mix of vehicle preferences for New Zealanders. Twenty five years ago, for example, the biggest sellers were the small/medium and medium-sized cars and the large Aussie 6’s. SUVs weren’t yet invented and the import of sports and luxury cars was heavily regulated.

Currently, the small car sector has almost doubled its market share, SUVs have largely supplanted medium and large cars, and sports and luxury cars and light trucks are growing apace.

“Last year was a bumper year for new products and this year won’t quite be at that level, but it’s certainly not quiet for Toyota,” says Mr Davis. “Along with the new RAV4 currently rolling out, we have two new versions of the 86 aimed at a younger market. Later in the year we will launch significant improvements for Hilux, then early in 2014 we will see a new Highlander.”


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