Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Record vehicle sales set to roll on

The Ford Ranger is expected to be 2016's top-selling vehicle. Picture / George Novak.
The Ford Ranger is expected to be 2016's top-selling vehicle. Picture / George Novak.

It's tipped to be another record year for new vehicle sales if immigration remains strong and the cost of debt stays low, according to the Motor Industry Association.

More than 135,000 new vehicles were registered in New Zealand during the 11 months to November - up 9.5 per cent on the same period in 2015.

While the count for all of 2016 won't be known until next week, it was expected last month that sales could break through the 140,000 mark.

Motor Industry Association chief executive David Crawford said the sales in 2016 took him by surprise.

Although he isn't expecting the same level of growth in 2017, Crawford said he thought it would be another strong year and new vehicle registrations could be up by 4 or 5 per cent.

"As long as net immigration is still high and there's low cost of debt I think we will see another record year ... I expect we might get close to 150,000 [new vehicle registrations] for 2017," he said.

Net immigration hit a record in the year to November, during which 70,400 more people moved to this country than left it.

"All of the economic indicators that have prevailed in 2016 we see prevailing in 2017," Crawford said.

"The only fly in the ointment is what happens around the election. We know from past years when there is some uncertainty around an election and what might happen following the election, discretionary spending is temporarily shelved."

With the cost of debt being relatively low, Crawford said that instead of increasing mortgages to purchase cars, many buyers were using regular vehicle finance.

The top-selling vehicle for 2016 was the Ford Ranger, followed by the Toyota Hilux and Toyota Corolla.

"These are different sales trends," Crawford said.

"In 2015, it was a first time a light-commercial vehicle was the top-selling model; that was the Ranger. In 2016 the two top-selling models will be light-commercial vehicles, the Ranger, followed by the Hilux."

United States carmakers are also expected to reveal record-breaking sales for 2016.

Many analysts are tipping a photo finish when the automakers report their annual hauls in the next few days, with some forecasting that 2016 will edge out the previous year's sales of 17.5 million vehicles by as few as 5000 vehicles.

If those projections prove true, 2016 would mark the seventh consecutive year of rising automotive sales in the US.

additional reporting: Washington Post

- NZ Herald

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