Busy year for country's top-selling car maker

By David Thomson on Sat, 10 Nov 2012

Another week passes, and another new model from Toyota graces the cover of Drivesouth - this time the 11th generation of the Corolla.

OK, it hasn't quite been a new model per week, but 2012 will still go down as one of the busiest years in history for vehicle launches from the country's top-seller car company.

The year began with a recently introduced new Yaris and an updated Hilux, the new kids on the Toyota block. New editions of the Camry and its V6 cousin the Aurion, the new Prius C (small hybrid) and Prius V (seven-seater hybrid), the 86 sports car and now the Corolla have since made it to town.

Plus, there's also been an update of the Land Cruiser and Avensis thrown into the mix.

Measured over a 12-month, as opposed to calendar-year period, that adds up to a remarkable refresh of the Toyota range.

This flurry of new-model activity has occurred at the same time as a big upswing in new-car sales.

These are running some 20% up on the same time last year, one of the steepest growth rates in the world this year.

Watching Toyota's new models arriving in droves at the same time as sales have rocketed, I've wondered for some time if Toyota, as the largest player in the country, has been driving the market forward.

A careful look at the sales figures suggest that is not quite the case since, while Toyota sales are certainly way up on 2011, it has actually lost a little ground in terms of market share.

Even so, just over one in every five new vehicles sold here in 2012 has been a Toyota.

The company's 20.4% market share compares to 11.4% for nearest rival Ford.

Toyota NZ chief executive Alistair Davis reckons the company's success is because of a number of factors, including customer confidence, exchange rates and lease commitments, but he also highlights the increased rate of scrapping of older cars.

"In New Zealand, the average age of a car when it is scrapped is 18 years," he said.

"The car fleet in this country is ageing badly and with the bubble of 1996 cars now 16 years old."

More cars in the New Zealand fleet were manufactured in 1996 than any other year because of this country's frontal impact standard, which effectively restricted used-car imports to those manufactured during or after 1996.

"Effectively, those 1996 cars are reaching the point where it becomes more economical to scrap them than to keep maintaining them in order to get a warrant of fitness."

He said the increase in scrapping older cars prompted a chain reaction.

He predicts given there is still two years to go before the bubble of 1996 cars reaches 18 years old, the demand for new cars will continue to grow during the next 12 months and beyond.

David Thomson