Where do 'New Zealand new' cars come from?
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As the preferences of New Zealand new vehicle buyers have veered to SUVs and utes over the last decade so also the manufacturing sources of those vehicles have shifted.
While 2019 saw a dip in new vehicle sales, last year’s 154,000-plus market dwarfs the sub-70,000 volume the industry battled to in 2009 during the depths of the Global Financial Crisis.
Registrations increased each year of the last decade until 2018 and then slowed by 4.3 per cent last year. But 2019 volumes still represent New Zealand’s third largest market on record.
Compare 2009 to 2019 and New Zealanders are today more likely to buy a Thai, China or US-built vehicle. And the most obvious change in our new car consumption habits has been the decline of Australia as a manufacturing source.
In 2009 there were 8206 Australian new vehicles sold in New Zealand which represented nearly 12 per cent of the market. Only 427 Australia-made vehicles arrived in New Zealand last year and the most popular models were the big Kenworth K and T Series trucks.
Back in 2009 Thailand had just edged ahead of Australia supplying a total volume of 8246 units and the trend has accelerated, mostly from the boom in pick-up sales. In 2019 New Zealanders bought 42,774 Thai-sourced vehicles as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado ranked first, second, fifth and sixth among the best-selling models.
The Ford Ranger has enjoyed a five year run as is New Zealand’s top-selling vehicle and is our largest import from Thailand.
Thailand isn’t solely a pick-up manufacturer as the Honda CR-V, most of the Civic and HR-V models along with the Mazda2 and CX-3, Mitsubishi Mirage and previous generation Toyota Corolla sedan are also built there.
Japan remains our biggest supplier of new vehicles with almost one-third share of the market (49,563 units in 2019). The most popular Japan-built model in 2019 remained the Toyota Corolla (hatch and wagon) while Toyota RAV4 volumes aren’t far behind and are beginning to threaten Corolla’s status as New Zealand’s favourite Japanese car.
Korea is the third most important source of new vehicles and the most popular Korean import in 2019 was the Kia Sportage. Germany ranks fourth and the best-selling German car in New Zealand last year was the Holden ZB Commodore ahead of the Volkswagen Golf and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van line.
The UK ranks fifth and the best selling UK-built car by a significant margin was the Nissan Qashqai. There was a new favourite American car in 2019 with the Tennessee-built GMC Acadia — branded here as a Holden — narrowly edging ahead of the Toyota Highlander.
US-built cars have achieved a five-fold increase in volume in the same 10-year period that saw the total market double. And it’s not US-branded metal like the Ford Mustang, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Tesla models that have driven the increase but rather the likes of the South Carolina-built BMW X models, Mercedes-Benz GLE and GLS models from Alabama and the Acadia, Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder large SUVs.
In 2009 there where only 210 new Chinese vehicles registered in New Zealand and that number has grown to 3673 last year. While the Haval and MG brands both gained momentum in 2019 the best-selling Chinese vehicle was the LDV V80 van.
Global manufacturing means some the manufacturing origin of vehicles don’t obviously match up to the pedigree of the badge. The Suzuki Vitara is built in Hungary, Hyundai Tucson diesels come from the Czech Republic and the Jeep Compass is built in India. The Volkswagen Polo and some Mercedes-Benz C-Class models are imported from South Africa.
Ford offered the most international vehicle line-up to New Zealand buyers in 2019 with the EcoSport coming from India, Endura from Canada, the Ranger, Everest and now discontinued Fiesta models from Thailand, Mondeo and Escape from Spain, the Mustang from the US, Focus from Germany and the Transit from the UK and Turkey (depending on model).
2019 New Zealand vehicle sources:
1 Japan, 49,563
2 Thailand, 42,774
3 Korea, 17,687
4 Germany, 10,817
5 Great Britain, 5531
6 USA, 5359
7 China, 3673
8 Czech Republic, 2705
9 Spain, 2129
10 Hungary, 2005