New vehicle sales shift to higher gear

New van and truck sales zipped ahead in January, with improving economic confidence, compelling deals and the high currency helping to move cars and trucks off the lot.

According to Motor Industry Association (MIA) figures made public yesterday, 9293 new vehicles, including commercial vehicles and passenger cars, were registered in the month, up 7 per cent on a year ago.

Commercial vehicles registrations rose 61.4 per cent to 1908 compared with a year ago - marking the category's highest monthly sales figure since 1982.

Passenger vehicles, meanwhile, fell 1.5 per cent in the month to 7385 compared with January last year, but the comparison was coming from a high base because of a surge in government fleet orders last year.

Even so, it was only the fourth time since 1975 that sales in a January month exceeded 7000 units.

Wellington's Brendan Foot Motors experienced a strong January marked by high numbers of private vehicle owners trading in 7 and 8-year-old vehicles for new models.

Principal dealer Matthew Foot said compelling offers from manufacturers, with a wide range of models on offer, multiple new features, improved fuel efficiency plus zero-interest finance deals (33 per cent deposit, and the rest payable over 24 months interest free), had helped lift sales.

"We've had years of Japanese imports with average safety and average emissions . . . this is a good way to build up a stock of safer vehicles," he said.

MIA head Perry Kerr said sales of commercial vehicles were being boosted by the Christchurch rebuild, but also from a general improvement in confidence among businesses. He cautioned, however, that the figures might be skewed somewhat by the Thai floods early last year, which tightened supplies to the market.

A boost in sales of second-hand vehicle sales has also benefited the market, with buyers getting better prices for their trade-ins.

Hamish Evans, sales manager at Shackel Motors in Lower Hutt, said January had been a welcome change after a moribund year in which consumers had kept a tight grip on their wallets. Factors boosting used vehicle sales include improving consumer confidence, pent-up demand, as well as tighter supplies after the Japanese earthquake in 2011.

MIA said early forecasts based on the January figures suggested the industry was likely to hit 100,000 new-vehicle sales this year Foot said the target was only achievable while the New Zealand dollar held at about 83.50 US cents.

Taranaki Daily News