Record registrations in New Zealand of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in the first quarter of 2015 reflects the unprecedented success of the brand in the 11th annual World Car of the Year awards.
At the end of March the NZ Transport Agency had registered 563 Benz passenger cars, a quarterly result that puts the brand ahead of German rivals BMW (507) and Audi (479) for the first time in recent memory.
One of the reasons for Benz’s early domination of the NZ luxury market’s numbers game is the appeal of the medium C-Class model (top), chosen by 75 motoring journalists worldwide this week as the 2015 World Car of the Year. The C-Class beat shortlisted contenders the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mustang.
Mercedes-Benz chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche said the C-Class has always been a trendsetter in the premium medium-siz category. “It comes to the starting line-up with qualities usually reserved for high-class automobiles,” he said.
“It embodies what we understand modern automobile luxury by Mercedes-Benz to be and has all the rerequisites to be a huge success.” The award was presented to Dr Zetsche at this week’s New York motor show. Benz also won two other ‘world car’ gongs: the S-Class coupe won the luxury segment and the Mercedes-AMG GT the ‘performance’ division.
The luxury German was the only carmaker to make it into the final round of the world awards with five vehicles, an unprecedented result in the history of an event dominated by German carmakers. Last year’s winner was the Audi A3. The all-electric Nissan Leaf is the only non-German car to win the title in the past seven years.
The BMW i8 was voted world green car of 2015 and the Citroen C4 Cactus picked up the design award. Both the i8 and Cactus are now on sale in NZ, the plug-in hybrid i8 priced from $278,000, the Cactus from $35,990.
Registrations at the end of March in NZ showed the new vehicle market continued to be strong. There remained a clear bias towards SUVs and light pick-up trucks, which accounted for around 55 per cent of the 32,267 new vehicles registered in the first three months of 2015.
SUVs alone totaled 10,469 registrations, or almost 34 per cent; the 6411 pick-ups and cab/chassis units were just short of 22 per cent. New-vehicle registrations averaged 10,755 a month till the end of March, an 8 per cent hike to date on 2014 numbers. The Toyota Corolla remains the most popular passenger car; the Ford Ranger the No.1 commercial.
March alone was the strongest March for registrations in more than 30 years, with 11,755 passenger and light commercial vehicles on the NZTA books. Toyota was the overall market leader with 15 per cent market share (1788 units) followed by Holden with 10 per cent (1151) and Ford 9 per cent (1090). Mitsubishi filled fourth place with 8 per cent (937).
Top 15 brands (cars and commercials) at the end of March
Toyota 5746 (17%); Holden 3639 (11%); Ford 3069 (9%); Mazda 2446 (7%); Hyundai 2316 (7%); Mitsubishi 2209 (7%); Nissan 2128 (6%); Volkswagen 1520 (5%); Suzuki 1139 (3%); Honda 1041 (3%); Kia 760 (2%); Mercedes-Benz 673 (2%): Subaru 527 (2%); BMW 507 (2%); Ssangyong 505 (2%); Others 5051 (15%).