New Zealand new vehicle sales rose to a record in January, as demand for commercial models offset a decline in passenger registrations.

Registrations increased 1.9 percent to 11,893 in January, compared with the year-earlier month, marking the strongest January on record, according to the Lower Hutt-based Motor Industry Association. Commercial vehicle registrations increased 13 percent to 2,657, the highest ever recorded for a January month, while passenger vehicle registrations slipped 1.2 percent to 8,899.

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Demand for commercial vehicles such as utes, which are popular with tradespeople and farmers, reflects a trend to more car-like interior fit-outs that have encouraged people to use them for private as well as business purposes. Sports utility vehicles make up about a third of sales.


New Zealand vehicle sales have hit annual records for the past two years, in the face of record migration and tourism. However the MIA expects sales to slow this year in line with slower growth in the domestic economy.

"While new vehicle sales for 2016 have started where they left off in 2015, the remainder of 2016 is expected to slightly soften as the year progresses," said MIA chief executive David Crawford.

Japanese car maker Toyota was the top selling brand in January, with 19 percent market share, followed by Ford with 12 percent, and Holden on 10 percent. The Toyota Corolla was the top selling passenger model, while the Ford Ranger was the top selling commercial model.