New Zealand new vehicle sales rose to a new record in 2016, its third year of breaking new territory, as popular car maker Toyota lost market share through the year.

New vehicle registrations rose 9.5 per cent to 146,753 in calendar 2016, of which passenger vehicles were up 8 per cent to 102,514 and commercial vehicles rose 13 per cent to 44,239, Motor Industry Association figures show.

Toyota remained the most popular passenger vehicle, with market share of 17 per cent, though it slipped to second place in the commercial space, with 20 per cent. Ford took over as the most popular commercial vehicle seller with 21 per cent market share, while it was the fourth most popular passenger vehicle with 7 per cent. Holden was the second most popular passenger vehicle at 10 per cent and the third most popular commercial brand at 9 per cent.

"The new vehicle market for 2016 performed significantly beyond expectations and exceeded every single previous record," MIA chief executive David Crawford said in a statement. "While many are writing off 2016 as a year to forget, for the new vehicle sector it was annus mirabilis, a wonderful year."

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Government figures show retail spending on motor vehicles and auto parts climbed 6.1 per cent to $8.56 billion in the nine months ended September 30 from the same period a year earlier, while over the same period spending on fuel fell 2.9 per cent to $5.42 billion reflecting the slump in global oil prices.

Cheap oil and a growing population have seen more cars on the roads over the past 18 months, prompting insurers to raise premiums for auto insurance, and that activity has attracted Australian interest in New Zealand's auto-parts market, with ASX-listed Bapcor mounting a takeover for NZX-listed Hellaby Holdings.