Smaller cars out in front as fuel rises

Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014

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Gone are the days of big cars and bigger engines as New Zealanders look to offset rising fuel prices by downsizing their vehicles.

Figures from the Motor Trade Association show the top 10 car makes sold over the five years from 2009 to 2013, with smaller, four-cylinder models dominating the market.

The Toyota Corolla was by far the top-selling car on the list - which measures combined new and used import sales - with almost 50,000 sales.

It also took out top spot in the 2006 to 2011 period, but in a surprise change the Suzuki Swift and Toyota Vitz/Yaris replaced the Subaru Legacy and Holden Commodore in second and third place.

The Legacy and Commodore slipped to eighth and 10th respectively.

Other bigger engine favourites, such as the Ford Falcon, BMW 3 Series and Subaru Impreza, fell out of the top 10.

Many owners of these vehicles had migrated to mid-size SUVs, with a lot of those vehicles having a diesel option.

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said this year's review was the first to include commercial vehicles and included Toyota's Hilux and Hiace models, thanks to their sales as new vehicles.

For non-commercial vehicle owners, the rising price of fuel was the main driver of the decision to downsize, Mr Stronach said.

"At the start of 2009, 91 octane petrol was selling for roughly $1.63 a litre; by the end of 2013, it was close to $2.20 a litre.

"With petrol costs increasing around 35 per cent in that time, it was entirely predictable that there would be a swing to smaller-engined cars."

There was also a fall in relative popularity of "people movers", with previously favoured models, such as Toyota's Estima/Lucida and the Honda Odyssey, falling out of the top 10.

However, in some cases, changes in availability of vehicles as used imports from Japan were as much responsible for movements in final standings as shifts in buyer preference, Mr Stronach said.

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- The Dominion Post

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