Cars cheaper now, says Honda boss

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2014

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Graeme Seymour recalls the days when a car cost the equivalent of 90 weeks' average salary.

But, 34 years later, Honda New Zealand's outgoing managing director says it has never been cheaper to buy a car.

Seymour yesterday announced he would retire at the end of next month. He has worked for the firm for 34 years - 12 as managing director - but the soon-to-be 65-year-old is looking forward to swapping gear sticks for fishing rods.

"It is a long time, yeah . . . but it's time I stepped aside."

Seymour was the first non-Japanese managing director in Honda worldwide.

His first involvement with the domestic car industry was when it was a protected market and local assembly still existed. But, with tariffs and the assembly industry winding down through to 1998, New Zealand became the most open car market in the world.

"It's fairly easy to have cars here. I don't know a market that's more free than this one."

More than 113,000 new vehicles were registered last year, the highest number in nearly 30 years.

This was up 12.4 per cent on 2012, when 100,795 new vehicles were registered.

He said the surge in sales was a combination of recovery from the global financial crisis and the growing domestic economy.

"Of course, there was a period where importing Japanese used cars got hard there for a while because the yen was really strong against the New Zealand dollar.

"It is starting to swing back the other way now, the New Zealand dollar is strengthening . . . we can offer much more value."

When Seymour started in the industry, a car was worth about 90 weeks' salary but, today, it was less than 30 weeks'.

For instance, a Honda Accord with pop-up headlights, wind-up windows and no air conditioning cost $36,000 decades ago. Today, $36,000 would buy you a similar car, but with extras included.

Nobuya Sonoda, part of Honda NZ's senior management team, will be the new managing director.

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- BusinessDay

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