Work and play driving ute popularity

Vehicle sales hit a record high in October.


PERCEPTION that one-tonne utes are increasingly finding favour as recreational vehicles isn’t being discounted as latest car sale figures roll in.

However, the car industry sentiment is that the work zone's desire for the trade-configured models is as much to do with the type's popularity than the weekend warrior set using they more glammed editions as SUV substitutes.

That comment has arisen in as the country’s new vehicle providers celebrate October having provisioned the strongest monthly registrations count ever recorded.

The sense that 2016 will stand out as another boom year has been strengthened with a monthly record that has stood since July of 1984 being finally bettered last month.

Some 14,709 vehicles were put into circulation in October – a whopping 726 unit increase over the previous all-time high count.

Registrations also rose 16 percent compared to October last year when 12,684 vehicles were sold.

Motor Industry Association President John Manley says it's a sign of a booming economy.

“People don't buy cars if they are not feeling confident, people don't buy cars and vehicles if they think the economy isn't positive so it's a very positive barometer.”

Toyota remained the market leader with 22 percent market share, with Holden second on 13 percent and Ford third with 11 percent.

As per usual trend, passenger models were the dominant choice, with 10,795 passenger and SUV registrations. The Toyota Corolla was the top selling passenger model, followed by the Toyota Yaris and the Holden Commodore. The Toyota models seem to be benefitting from the country’s top brand furnishing bulk orders for seasonal rental car requirement.

The passenger segments have 38 percent for the month of October, followed by the SUV segments with 35 percent of vehicle registrations and the light commercial segments with 26 percent share.

However, the industry still sees one-tonne utilities presenting the biggest opportunity, with the type dominating the 3914 commercial registrations.

The Ford Ranger was the top-selling commercial model, with 768 units – enough to give the Blue Oval a 20 percent share and to maintain Ranger as the best-selling traydeck, with an impressive 7173 delivered year to date. The Toyota Hilux maintained its bridesmaid role with 512 units in October, and 5299 year to date, with the Holden Colorado accounting for 345 units. 

How many of these are being used for work and how many for play continues to be a fascinating sub-plot to the story. All leading performers concede their best sellers are invariably high-end doublecab diesel automatic models that tend to better suit weekend fun than week day toil.

Nonetheless, when speaking to a radio station, Manley – who in addition to having the MIA’s helm also guides Nissan New Zealand - suggested that the not-so-glam workhorse variants were the real drivers.

“In the past year we have seen a big increase in the number of utes being sold,” Manley acknowledged.

“Utes are now making up between 25 and 28 percent of the market. That’s very strong and I guess that is indicative of things like the building boom, tradespeople and things like that. It’s very strong there.”

Asked which was the stronger vehicle year to date, Corolla or Ranger, he deflected the question, arguing they were different vehicles, designed for different uses and aimed at different sectors.

“You’re talking a small hatchback versus a big utility. I think what you need to say is that the whole market is going very well and people are buying record numbers of cars.”

On the market feel as a whole, he said there was much to be optimistic about.

“New vehicle sales are a barometer of businesses and consumer’s confidence in the economy. The record sales for … October indicates that there is a strong level of confidence in the performance of the New Zealand economy.

Car sales are one of a number of indicators of consumer confidence, he adds.

“Things are absolutely flying, the domestic economy is strong, building is at record levels, people are feeling good.”

Sales have been supported by record inward migration and an economy growing at 3.6 percent on an annual basis, he added.