Registrations increased 3 percent to 12,110 in March from a year earlier, marking the strongest March level since 1984, according to the Lower Hutt-based Motor Industry Association.

Commercial vehicle registrations rose 6.5 percent to 3,919, the highest ever recorded for a March month while passenger vehicle registrations gained 1.4 percent to 8,191, the strongest level for the month since 1989.

New Zealand vehicle sales have hit annual records for the past two years, and in the first quarter of this year are tracking 3 percent ahead of last year.

Vehicle sales are being underpinned by a growing economy bolstered by record migration and tourism as rivalry keeps a lid on prices.


"Strong net immigration, competitive pricing and end of financial year deals drove strong new vehicles registrations in March 2016," said MIA chief executive David Crawford. "The month of March continued the overall strong performance of the new vehicle sector over the last three years."

Japanese car maker Toyota was the top selling brand in March, with 15 percent market share, followed by Ford with 10 percent, and Mitsubishi on 8 percent.

The three top-selling models for February were all light commercial vehicles, led by the Ford Ranger with a 5 percent market share, followed by the Toyota Hilux with a 5 percent share and the Mitsubishi Triton with a 4 percent share.