Registrations of new passenger cars for the first two months of 2020 plunged 25.3 per cent on the same period last year, according to Motor Industry Association (MIA) figures.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) had registered 4630 cars – sedans, hatchbacks, sports – at the end of February. But this time last year it had 6199 on its books.
Large cars – like the outgoing Holden Commodore, above – have taken the biggest hit, down 53 per cent from 469 registrations in January-February last year to 219 so far this year.
Joining them on the endangered list are small cars, slumping 41 per cent from 2702 registrations last year to 1589 at the end of last month.
Light, medium, and sports cars aren’t faring too well either: light are down 6.2 per cent, medium 11.3 per cent, and sports 9.6 per cent.
But city-suitable micro cars – the Suzuki Celerio, Kia Picanto, for example – are bucking the downward trend, with registrations so far up 11.7 per cent on last year.
Large and small cars particularly are victims of the move to SUVs, which in January and February accounted for 50 per cent of all new vehicle registrations.
Identifying SUVs can be a murky world. Take the Suzuki Ignis, for example. It’s certainly a small car, but its extra ground clearance qualifies it as an SUV. Trying to explain why it’s an SUV leads you deep into the weeds.
There were 12,175 SUVs – compact, medium, large, luxury – registered at the end of February against 11,110 for the first two months last year, a hike of 9.5 per cent.
New Zealanders are buying SUVs in one form or another for pretty much one reason only: because everyone else is.
But while SUVs continue to enjoy days in the sun, commercial utes, both 4×4 and 4×2, are facing darker times. Registrations in February alone were down 14.4 per cent (592 units) on the same month last year.
After two months of 2020, ute numbers are down almost 10 per cent. A similar result in March will mean ute registrations have tumbled in each of the past six months.
Perhaps those townies who, in search of the inner Walter Mitty and family adventure, swapped the dynamics of a sedan-based station wagon for a truck-based double-cab ute with limited tyre grip, slow steering, and pogo-stick suspension have changed their minds.
Perhaps not. The Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux are still number 1 and 2 respectively, Ranger with 1612 registrations and Hilux with 1053.
Two months into 2020, registrations of new vehicles are down 4.3 per cent on the same period last year. Back then, 25,612 vehicles had been registered with the NZTA. Now it’s 24,502 – or an average of 555 fewer vehicles a month.