The Car Club
Utes are big sellers here, accounting for almost 25 per cent of the new vehicle market.
The Hilux and Ranger are locked in a sales battle for the number one spot, not only in the ute segment but in overall new vehicle sales.
Toyota is only just holding on to the year-to-date ute sales lead by 32 units. It has been the best selling new vehicle in New Zealand for the past three years, easily besting the perennial favourite Kiwi car, the Corolla.
Nissan's Navara is the third best selling ute year to date, which is not bad going for an aging truck. It's to be replaced midway through next year by the new D23; production ends soon but Nissan NZ has enough stock to last through to the D23's launch.
Recently BP released a document that suggested global oil reserves will last for about another five decades at current use rates.
So that means no more oil within the lifetime of our kids. Scary thought? Sure, but we're nothing if not ingenious us humans, even if we are rather slow at overcoming our reliance on oil.
It's a fairly sure thing that in the medium term vehicles with internal combustion engines will become less common while plug-in hybrids will play an increasingly important fleet role. Eventually, as battery technology matures, pure electric vehicles will become viable not just for in city use but also for longer haul journeys.
And all of those things seem to be happening apace; with so many parties now working on battery technology it won't be long before EVs have touring ranges that rival those of existing petrol vehicles.
By 2020, some experts are predicting 10 per cent of the fleet will be pure EVs. Even now, more expensive EVs like Tesla have ranges comparable with conventional cars and more affordable EVs can supposedly run for up to 150km on a charge, depending on how they're driven. In real world use, 100km is probably closer to the mark. Still, given most urban folk drive on average no more than 35km per day, then already the EV range is adequate, provided the battery pack is recharged overnight or every other night.
Motoring journalists are sometimes privileged to attend world launches of special vehicles, most of which they could never afford.
But at the other end of the launch scale, we also get to evaluate entry-level vehicles, like the sub-$20k city cars. This isn't what you'd call a big sector, in any sense, but it is growing and there are now half a dozen or so urban midgets out there, such as the Kia Picanto, Mitsi Mirage, Suzuki Splash and Alto, Barina Spark, and most recently the Skoda Citigo.
Of the established city cars, it's a close run thing between Picanto and Splash, to my mind, but I believe the new Citigo will give them a decent run for their money.
And on that subject the smallest Skoda launches here for $18,900 in five-speed manual format, while the five-speed auto costs an extra grand. We've only driven the manual to date, so cannot really comment on the auto, but it's likely to go reasonably well too since the engine majors (in a small way, naturally) on torque rather than power.
At the recent launch of the new Nissan X-Trail, some journos muttered about the lack of a diesel variant in the line-up but, as Nissan NZ revealed, so few buyers opted for it previously that it wasn't worth offering again.
And with a diesel's price premium, the extra registration, licensing and servicing costs, and the absurdity of road user charges in this country, you have to be covering serious kilometres before a diesel starts making any return on investment.
In more progressive nations where motoring taxation favours vehicles with lower emissions and consumption, diesels still have a more relevant role to play as buyers have an incentive to choose an economical diesel car. But the tightening of legislation around emissions poses a problem for compression ignition technology.
So is diesel a dead duck as some have predicted?
How do we limit the risk of accidents on our roads?
With all the recalls, it's tempting to say don't buy a new Toyota ... or a GM product ... or a VW. But then every manufacturer has recalls at some time; only those with their eye on the wrong prize seem to have more recalls than anyone else. The wrong prize would be global number one bragging rights and each of the three mentioned is in the running to be number one. Each has had a major recall programme recently - that seems to happen when you produce the most vehicles. It also suggests that when the end game is being top of the podium for global new vehicle sales, quality is the first casualty.
But we're not really here to talk about what goes wrong when big business gets big aspirations.
No, we're here to think about staying alive over the Easter weekend holiday period. Traditionally it is thought of as the last long weekend of summer, but that's often not the case; it's usually the first torrential weekend of sutumn. And that looks to be the situation for this year. Wet slippery roads, and lots of impatient Kiwi drivers; not a great combination.
There's plenty you can do to reduce the accident odds and keep yourself alive on the roads, aside from just the expected of obeying the road rules.
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