South Korea's Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia were the second-most popular brands in the New Zealand new-vehicle market last year, trailing long-time leader Toyota but collectively selling more than second-placed Ford or third-placed Holden.

Motor Industry Association registrations for last year show Hyundai sold 6725 cars and light commercials for a market share of about 8 per cent. Kia sold 2489 units for just shy of 4 per cent. The combined total of 9214 vehicles shades Ford's 8656 and Holden's 8052.

Toyota sold 17,534 new vehicles last year and its subsidiary Daihatsu 78 to take more than 20 per cent.

Hyundai and Kia are moving up the sales charts. Hyundai finished fourth overall, with sales up 19 per cent on 2010. Like its parent, Kia last year marked its third year of growth in New Zealand, up 11.8 per cent on 2010.


Worldwide, sales of Kia cars hit a new high of 2,478,959, up 18.6 per cent on 2010.

Kia's rapid growth is the result of the company's design-led transformation under the stewardship of its German-based chief design officer, Peter Schreyer.

"To increase our sales by 11.8 per cent in face of challenging local market conditions and production restrictions was a great result," says Todd McDonald, general manager of Kia Motors NZ.

He is predicting another increase this year.

"Virtually all of our models have been completely replaced or refreshed over the past 18 months and have won awards and critical acclaim around the world, so we are very excited about the coming year."

Japan remains the biggest exporter of motor vehicles to New Zealand, landing almost 34,000 new cars and commercials last year.

Thailand - despite last year's floods - was the next-biggest supplier with 10,709 vehicles, followed by South Korea's 10,075, Australia's 8872, and Germany's 7081.

Thailand is becoming a powerful player in the Asia-Pacific automotive industry. Most new commercial vehicles sold in New Zealand are assembled in Thailand and landed under the free-trade agreement between the two countries.

Thai-built one-tonners include the Toyota Hilux, Holden Colorado, Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, and Izusu ute.

Thailand landed 6563 of the 13,032 light commercial vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) sold in New Zealand last year. Japan was next with 3317, followed by Germany's 892 and Australia's 864.

"Thailand is clearly the biggest source of commercial vehicles for New Zealand, and is becoming a magnet for car production too," says Motor Industry Association CEO Perry Kerr.

Thailand is likely to overtake Japan as the most prolific exporter of motor vehicles to Australia within two years, says a report across the Tasman.

Thai automotive exports to Australia have doubled in seven years. Japanese carmakers are switching to large-scale Thai production to cut landed costs of vehicles and also take advantage of free-trade agreements between Thailand and Australia.

The Japanese companies have built mirror-image factories in Thailand, transplanting not only their production equipment, but also their quality systems and work ethic.