Ute sales surge: from the farm to the flashed-up family move
Media Release 11 September 2013
Ute sales surge: from the farm to the flashed-up family mover
New Zealand motorists’ shift from regular cars to sport utility vehicles (SUVs) is well documented – but the accompanying growth in the popularity of utility vehicles is less well known, Motor Trade Association (MTA) has found.
For the year to date, three of New Zealand’s best selling model lines (Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara) are utility vehicles.
While every bit as practical, almost as well appointed, and with a muscular attractiveness that competes with the soft-roader appeal of most SUV’s, utilities are helping redefine the vehicle marketplace.
Between 2007 and August 2013, 4 x 4 utility vehicle sales volumes have increased by 38 percent; the only segment to increase volumes faster has been SUVs – which are up by 64 percent. At the same time, 4 x 2 utilities have increased volumes by 23 percent – the third fastest growing segment. In the same way that New Zealand’s shift towards SUVs mirrors overseas experience, so too does the move to utility vehicles, which have proven especially popular in the United States.
With current average monthly sales now running at 1,739 vehicles, utilities are the largest new vehicle segment behind SUVs (2,499), and are followed by small (1,673) and light (1,248) vehicles.
Long the mainstay of the rural sector, utility vehicles are increasingly the choice of drivers in more urban settings. While still popular with farmers, trades people are more and more likely to choose a utility vehicle for its range of advantages. Current utility vehicles are more likely to have an automatic transmission, are more often than not fitted with 4 x 4 drive-trains, have as many safety features as a car and be very comfortable and roomy to ride in. They have other practical advantages as well, boasting tremendous towing capability, good levels of fuel economy and equally importantly, they retain high residual values.
MTA spokesperson Ian Stronach says “Today’s utility provides a very sensible alternative for many buyers. Trades people and families are recognising the versatility they provide; they don’t have to give up comfort and refinement for the many practical advantages a utility provides. The higher specification utilities available on the market usually have features that not long ago were the preserve of the luxury segment.”
As with SUV’s, buyers of utilities enjoy the perception of safety that comes with the high ride height. With a deck liner and canopy fitted however, a utility can carry loads that might otherwise damage the interior of most SUV’s – the run to the tip, or moving heavy, dirty, objects. Modern features like touch-screen controls, Bluetooth connectivity, premium grade cloth and carpets make the interiors hard to distinguish from those of a traditional passenger car. And, probably more so than in any other segment, utility vehicle owners take the opportunity to personalise their vehicles with accessories ranging from practical additions such as canopies, driving lights, racking systems and tonneau covers, through to more decorative items like aftermarket wheels and tyres, sports-bars, step boards and wheel arch flares; no two utilities look quite the same.