SUVs rule as records tumble

By David Thomson on Sat, 8 Jul 2017

Kiwi vehicle sales records are continuing to tumble. Last month was the strongest ever for new vehicle registrations and used import registrations also tracked at record levels for the year to date.

As best I can figure it, every month this year has been a new vehicle record-breaker when compared with the corresponding month in previous years. June's total of 15,985 new vehicle registrations was not only the strongest June on record, but also the first time more than 15,000 new vehicles have been registered here in a single month. Year to date, the new vehicle sector is 14.6% (10,095 units) ahead of this time last year with 79,131 vehicles registered.

That's amazing, given that last year was also a record one for new car sales, following previous records set in 2015 and 2014.

Used registrations aren't scaling quite the same dizzy heights, but had still stretched ahead of the previous year-to-date best (set in 2004) by the end of May. So 2017 could end up being a record year for used import registrations as well.

Delving into the top end of the new car charts, it's interesting to observe the ongoing decline of the conventional car and the rise of the SUV. The latter type of vehicle has now claimed eight of the top 10 places in the new passenger car charts.

Helped by a raft of national Fieldays specials, utes are selling in an even more spectacular fashion.

Consider these types of vehicle together, and utes take the top three places so far for 2017, with the Ford Ranger ahead of the Toyota Hilux and Holden Colorado. The Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Nissan Navarra and Mazda CX-5 come next, followed by the Toyota Hiace and Mitsubishi Outlander.

While I've come to expect regular positive news for vehicle sales of late, the same hasn't been the case in respect of Hayden Paddon's 2017 WRC campaign. As a result, I found last weekend's Polish WRC round nerve-racking to follow from afar.

Things were looking good as Paddon climbed from fifth to fourth and then up to third. My head said at that point he'd get a podium finish, and I even had an inkling he might clinch second place; the odds, I figured, were that his Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville's epic battle for the lead with Ford's Ott Tanak would end with one of them going off the road.

Sure enough, that's what happened to Tanak. This time, Paddon made it to the end safely to claim his first podium finish in a year. I followed his progress through the final special stage on the WRC's live timing system and held my breath all the way.

Hyundai took special satisfaction from this being the first one-two finish for the team since 2014. Paddon will doubtless be happy to have contributed to that result, although he won't be fully satisfied until he and co-driver Seb Marshall are the ones occupying the top step of the podium.

David Thomson