South bucks trend in vehicle sales

Dunedin City Motors sales manager Keith Kippenberger. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Dunedin City Motors sales manager Keith Kippenberger. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Sales of commercial vehicles stalled last month, dropping 14.4% year on year to 3527 sales, according to latest figures from the Motor Industry Association.

Almost 600 fewer units were driven off the lot in February and MIA chief executive David Crawford said it was the fifth month in a row that commercial sales were down.

He said the trend reflected lack of confidence from major commercial vehicle buyers.

‘‘The trade and farming sector, for example, are taking a view on future economic conditions and deferring their buying decisions against what they see as fragility and concern in relation to the impact of coronavirus on the New Zealand export-led economy.’’

Mr Crawford said supply constraints would also be ‘‘inevitable’’ in the coming months for some automobile makes and models, as Chinese vehicle and parts production came to a standstill.

The slowdown in commercial registrations pulled total new car sales down by 261 units to 11,438 sales, although passenger and SUV sales remained positive, up by 331 to 7911 vehicles for the month.

Toyota retained its top position as New Zealand's favourite car brand at 17% of overall sales, and both its Hilux (580 units) and Toyota Rav4 (419 units) featured in the top three.

The Ford Ranger retained pole position, with a 21% market share in the commercial sector and 728 more of them on the road last month.

Dunedin City Motors chief executive Robert Bain said while national numbers were down, the year had started on a more positive note for the local Otago and Southland group than it had ended in 2019.

‘‘Demand from the local building trade remains very positive, particularly for both the Ranger and Transit, and our new car team have had a very busy start to the year through Dunedin, Alexandra and Gore.’’

Mr Bain said the commercial declines may have come outside of the ‘‘big four’’ car brands.

‘‘Overall, all that matters really is that buyers buy local, support local during the hospital rebuild and other large projects.’’

Mr Crawford said that sales of pure electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles had also remained steady over the month, with sales at 124 and 664 respectively.

Of a total of 154,479 new car registrations last year, medium size SUVs remained as the biggest seller, at 29,193 units or just under one-fifth of the market.

Last year 4.3million vehicles were registered, almost one car for every New Zealander. Of those, 2.87million were cars and SUVs, while 648,279 were listed as trucks.

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