Car sales speed up despite Japan tsunami

By Jacqui Madelin

The tsunami destroyed new cars and affected production at car plants. Photo / AP
The tsunami destroyed new cars and affected production at car plants. Photo / AP

New Zealand's new vehicle sales rose 5.2 per cent last year, smack on the target set by the industry at the start of the year.

The 64,019 passenger car sales marked a 3.2 per cent increase over 2010, with light commercials up 11.9 per cent to 20,261.

That came despite massive disruption to Japanese companies caused by the March earthquake and tsunami, with those companies less affected picking up sales.

At the height of the crisis, Toyota predicted its tally could drop as low as 14,000 units, with a $300 million loss of revenue. But canny trading and delaying tactics, such as putting its approved used Signature Class cars on short-term lease, allowed it to all but catch up once power stations and factories returned to operation.

December marked a rise of 26.1 per cent over the same month in 2010, and 728 of those sales were Corollas. That kept Toyota firmly on top, with a 20.7 per cent market share from 17,534 sales, 2.8 per cent below 2010, partly because of a short supply of the Hilux.

The biggest beneficiary of the year's troubles was Hyundai, its 19 per cent increase taking it to 6725 and fourth spot behind Ford and Holden and ahead of Mazda. But Volkswagen took advantage of its new ute, the Amarok, which was largely responsible for a 216 per cent annual increase in light commercial sales. The brand's sales went up 45.2 per cent to 3453 registrations.

New Zealand's top new-car models were Toyota's Corolla (4166 sales), Toyota Hilux, Suzuki Swift (2892), Holden Commodore (2381) and Hyundai i30 (2300).

Used imports fell 8.1 per cent to 84,028. The coming year is expected to see fierce competition, with the Japanese back on board, boosted by many new models and new emissions' regulations likely to deflect some used-car buyers to the entry-level new-car market.

The industry predicts another year of 5 per cent growth.

- Herald on Sunday

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