As fuel prices rise, buyers are seeking out EVs

An electric vehicle passes a petrol station. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
An electric vehicle passes a petrol station. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Dunedin car dealers say there has been an "unreal" increase in interest for electric vehicles (EVs) in the past week.

As the conflict in Eastern Europe raged over the weekend, fuel prices in New Zealand continued to increase well past $3 a litre.

People had already been showing significant interest in EVs over the past year since the Government brought in its first rebate scheme, but the current fuel crisis had "accelerated" that, Southern Motor Group dealer principal Craig Brook said.

The dealership had made quite a few EV and hybrid sales at the weekend.

"It’s been quite unreal really."

Cars were being sold before they even hit the showroom floor, as global supply chain issues made it "very hard" to get stock in the country.

Some brands were having to wait until at least July before they arrived in the country.

"It is now just a case of having to buy it and wait for it to turn up," Mr Brook said.

Your Next Car Dunedin owner Steve Warrington said there had definitely been an increase in interest over the past week or so.

He had not sold a fully petrol car in a couple of weeks, as people focused more on hybrids.

Getting cars into the country had got a little bit easier, but still remained an issue.

Mr Warrington expected hybrids and EVs’ popularity to continue to grow, especially with the Government’s clean car rebate, which comes into effect next month.

"People are slowly learning about them and becoming more interested," he said.

NZ Automotive Investments (NZAI), which owns the nationwide chain of 2 Cheap Cars, said hybrids and EVs now made up nearly half of its sales, up from an average of about 20%.

Chief executive David Page said sales of hybrids and EVs were going "gangbusters" as the price of petrol and diesel climbed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions on Russia.

"Kiwis are really interested and concerned around fuel prices and I think that shows with the decisions they are making around purchasing cars," he said.

Mr Page said dealerships were already prepared for a jump in sales with the nearing rebate scheme expansion, but the soaring price of fuel had brought the demand forward.

Despite the increasing demand, he did not believe the prices for used hybrids and EVs would also rise.

"I think people are still sourcing them at similar prices. However, there are a lot of other factors at play so we have to see what happens," he said.

He believed hybrids and EVs would remain popular in the short to medium term, because motorists had become more fuel-conscious when considering the cars they wanted to buy. — Additional reporting RNZ

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