The headlines about record new car sales in 2015 don’t quite tell the entire truth.
It’s more a case of booming utility sales and a continuing surge in SUV popularity that has pushed the New Zealand new vehicle market beyond 130,000 units for the first time. New cars — in the conventional sense — are in sales decline.
The year finished strongly, with December passenger car registrations of 7109 units being the highest total for that month since 1976. Commercial vehicle registrations of 3136 units were 339 (12 per cent) ahead of December 2014, again setting a record for the highest number of commercial vehicles sold in the month of December.
Data released last week confirms 2015 ended with 134,041 new vehicle registrations — an increase of 6862 vehicles (5.4 per cent) over 2014 and the highest annual new vehicle registrations in New Zealand history.
Commercial vehicle registrations of 39,077 units set a new record with sales up 2415 units (6.6 per cent) on 2014. Passenger vehicle registrations totalled 94,964 units — up 4447 units (4.9 per cent) on 2014.
Within the passenger vehicle segment, SUV model sales soared from 37,013 units in 2014 to 45,376 units last year and now represent 34 per cent of the new vehicle market (up from 29 per cent in 2014).
The Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Toyota Highlander and Holden Captiva were the top-selling SUV models.
Sales across all conventional car categories (including people movers and sports cars) fell from 53,139 units in 2014 to 48,982 units last year as buyers continued to shift into the SUV and pick-up (primarily double cab) utility categories.
Toyota was New Zealand’s top-selling vehicle brand for the 28th consecutive year, with total registrations of 26,330 vehicles. Toyota gained a 20 per cent market share ahead of Holden with 14,001 units (10 per cent), Ford 13,808 (10 per cent), Mazda 10,078 (8 per cent) and Hyundai 8329 (6 per cent).
The Ford Ranger topped the commercial vehicle segment for the second time and was also New Zealand’s top-selling model overall — the first time any commercial vehicle has outsold passenger models.
The strength of the ute market was confirmed with four pick-up/cab chassis models among New Zealand’s top six best-selling vehicles. Ford Ranger sales totalled 6818 units to finish ahead of the Toyota Corolla with 6514 units, Toyota Hilux 5623, Holden Colorado 3586, Toyota RAV4 3519 and Nissan Navara 3146.
The Corolla, RAV4 and Highlander were the most popular new rental vehicles in 2015. There are some clear winners and losers to be found in the 2015 data. In spite of the sales success by the Ranger, it was a difficult year for Ford with a significant drop in its passenger car sales contributing to a fall in its overall sales numbers. Ford sold 14033 vehicles in 2014 and 13808 last year with Ranger sales up by 488 units but passenger cars falling by 910 units.
Other brands to sell fewer vehicles in a bigger 2015 market were Suzuki (down 327 units), Volkswagen (down 178), BMW (down 174) and Audi (down 310).
Top-performing major brands included Mazda and Subaru.
Though Mazda actually sold fewer commercial vehicles last year than in 2014, its passenger model sales boomed and the brand rose from number five in passenger car sales during 2014 to pass both Ford and Hyundai.
Total Mazda sales grew from 8128 in 2014 to 10,078.
Mercedes-Benz performed strongly, moving ahead of German rivals BMW and Audi in 2015 to lead the luxury car segment.
“The breadth of new models with increased performance and comfort features, combined with competitive prices and a high level of choice makes New Zealand one of the most competitive new car markets anywhere in the world,” said David Crawford, chief executive officer of the Motor Industry Association.