New-car sales 'close to pre-GFC levels'

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012

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New car sales are up 35 per cent in October from the same month last year.

According to the Motor Industry Association, 1908 new cars were registered this October. There have been 64,285 new vehicles registered this year so far with two months of the year left, already 266 more cars than were registered in all of 2011.

Association chief executive Perry Kerr said new car sales were "very close to" levels seen before the global financial crisis.

"The global and local industry has faced its fair share of challenges over the past three years, all of which have impacted on sales.

"We have now climbed out of the hole and are back on a firm footing and will be very close to, if not breaking, the 100,000-unit mark for new vehicle sales, putting us back to the levels we saw prior."

Brendan Foot Motors Lower Hutt principal dealer Matthew Foot said that it was not people who already owned late-model vehicles who were upgrading to the newest version on the car yard, but people trading in ageing transport.

"In the small-car market, people are coming out of older cars. We are selling Suzuki Swifts to people who are trading in 10 [to] 12-year-old cars.

"Also, the official cash rate is very low so people are not getting a lot for their money in the bank," Foot said.

"New cars are cheap, making them very competitive against traditional used cars. We've had a downward spiral on fuel prices that has been contributing to the sale of small, efficient cars.

"New cars have all the safety features and mod cons which used to be exclusive to large expensive cars."

Toyota's Corolla was by far the highest-selling new vehicle on the market in New Zealand, with almost 1000 more priced between $33,490 and $45,490 selling than the next-top-seller, Suzuki Swift, at between $20,500 and $27,500.

Kiwis have long loved the Toyota Corolla. In 2010 the Automobile Association called it affordable, practical, reliable and "having few rivals when it comes to pleasing the masses".

The 2013 versions now being sold are lower, giving it a sporty look, and the seats are heated.

Armstrong Motor Group owner Rick Armstrong said sales were driven by car brands launching new models and buyers deciding that low-maintenance new cars made more economic sense.

"It appears to me people have worked out buying a new car is cheaper than buying a used car because they get warranty and servicing for free which makes it essentially a cheaper option than buying something that needs maintenance," Armstrong said, adding that luxury car sales remained strong.

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"New car pricing is very cheap at the moment because of the very competitive strong dollar.

There is a demand from the private buyer at the moment," he said, adding that Wellington sales were not tracking at the same pace as at its Christchurch, Dunedin and Palmerston North branches.

Many of the new vehicles recently registered were for rental car companies and business fleets, he said.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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