The SUV market grows even as the overall car market stops growing, mirroring the rise and rise of the ute market. New Zealand's adoption of SUV's is higher than in many other countries

The SUV market grows even as the overall car market stops growing, mirroring the rise and rise of the ute market. New Zealand's adoption of SUV's is higher than in many other countries

Kiwi's love sport utility vehicles (SUVs). And it is tough to sell a car these days that is not an SUV.

In April, for the first time ever, more than 70% of all new passenger vehicles were SUVs.

And that is 4,781 vehicles in a month where 6,778 new cars were sold. That is a rise of almost 12% from April 2018 and it comes when both Easter and ANZAC Day occurred in the month, whereas Easter fell largely in March last year.

And this means that less than 2000 traditional cars were sold as new in the month, the lowest since we have been tracking this data in November 2012.

Overall, the 6,778 new cars sold is the lowest level for an April in four years, in fact as April is the traditional low month of the year anyway, you have to go back to April 2015 to find a lower month.

However, SUV sales are keeping levels elevated with this segment delivering higher margin sales for dealerships and manufacturers.

The April 70.5% market share for SUVs compares with an overall 2019 share in the first four months of 65.8%. At that level we are higher than in Australia where SUVs command a 58% share. World-wide the 2018 share by SUVs was 36% and in the US it was 35%.

And it is not only SUVs. Utes and double cab utes are popular too powering April commercial sales to an 8% gain over the same month in 2018. In fact, over the whole market, year to date the three top selling models are all utes, with the Ford Ranger in the lead with 3,144 units, followed by the Toyota Hilux with 2,237 units and the Mitsubishi Triton in third with 2,005 units. All these outsold the most popular SUV, the Kia Sportage (1,318).

In the SUV category, the real action goes on in the 'medium' sector with April sales up a remarkable 48% from a year earlier. On a year-to-date basis, the gain is 10%. Just the increase in SUVs being sold (508 in April) far exceeds the total level of electric vehicles (EVs) and petrol hybrid vehicle (PHVs) being sold. (In March New Zealand Transport Agency registration data shows there were 218 hybrids and 86 EVs sold in the month.)

New vehicles sold

Select chart tabs »

The 'Passenger vehicle sales' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Passanger vehicle sales - Annual' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Passenger vehicles yoy%' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Commercial vehicle sales' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Commercial vehicles - Annual' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Commercial vehicles yoy%' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The 'Used car imports' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA
The ' Used car imports - Annual' chart will be drawn here.
Source: NZTA

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Horrible things really. Fuel guzzling, and a hazard

Fill it up with grandkids and take them into the wilds, easily tows the boat or trailer loaded with offroad bikes, fold the back seats down to carry furniture and stuff, safer in many crash scenarios (admittedly not all), does 700Km on a tank of diesel. Marvellous versatile things really. I love my SUV.

Can do all that in my wagon, except it goes 800km on a tank of petrol

The Person. Yep, but it'd drown or slide off the track within the first few K/M's where I take my SUV.

Most of SUV's that make up this 70% of new car sales would also drown. In the states they make a handy distinction between 'crossovers' i.e. normal passenger car with slightly larger wheels (Mazda Cx3 Cx5 etc) that get counted here as SUVs and real offroad capable SUVs.

This is like how 10% of the SUV owners use their SUVs. The other 90% is one adult dropping off their kid(s) at school. Some people need SUVs, the majority don't.

SUV is a strict requirement if you send your kids to a Decile 10 or private school.
Imagine dropping your kids off in a Toyota Camry hybrid... ewwww...

Chairman Moa. A friend lives in CHCH in a narrow street that gives access to an exclusive school that was in lockdown, not far from the mosque. The noise of sirens, choppers etc was constant throughout the afternoon. Later a longish line of mostly dark coloured, large SUV's suddenly appeared outside. Her immediate thought was a SWAT team response to a shooter at the school. Nope, the all clear had been given and this was mummy and daddy picking up their little darlings.

Could be The Man 2 in his Range Rover

Moa. Nah, private school, status points ... it'd be the Bentley.

They are fairly efficient these days. You can see why they are popular as they are practical. Fit everything and safer to travel in.


Worse roll over performance, worse road holding, wider and bigger so more likely to hit things, worse braking performance, higher fuel consumption, block other driver's views leading to more accidents. More wasteful of foreign exchange (bigger deficits for NZ). Kill other motorists at a higher rate because they are heavier and handle worse (heaviest vehicle wins in a head-on).

They are a cancer on our roads, endangering everyone else for a minor convenience boost for their owners. If you really need space get a people mover or a van.

People movers and vans have better braking performance, road handling than SUVs?

Yes, a lower centre of gravity improves all those things

Yep, that's why a Porsche 911 is best ; )

Lol, best song to describe a 911..

"Kill other motorists at a higher rate because they are heavier and handle worse (heaviest vehicle wins in a head-on)."

Yip, its an arms race. Once one person got one, we all need one so that we aren't the little car being squished.

Was never a fan until I got one at the ripe old age of 50... the swiss army knife of vehicles for me.

Can fit the mountain bikes on it... go off-road for hiking trail head access, can fill all the kids crap in the back for a holiday - 5 star crash test rating and drives like a car - fuel economy also better than previous BMW sedan

I can see why many houses have one - in our instance the other car is a small economical run around (VW Polo) for when we dont need the SUV

Whats not to like with them?

IMO the worst things on the road right now are the "pickup truck ala Ford Ranger" being driven my all and sundry (Mums, accountants...not just tradies and normally bloody aggressively!

Spot on, just a change in mindset required

No not really. If you were living on the Port Hills, Christchurch circa 2010/11, you would soon have realised why one of these was indispensable.

We need SUV's so we can drive over speed humps at 50 kph without spilling our flat whites - every Aucklander.

Perhaps a good indicator of the representative NZer not being a rational economic agent?

Modern SUVs are fuel efficient, safe, practical and perform well on the open road compared to the SUVs of old.

I expect my next SUV will be will be electric and called an SUEV.

Not fuel efficient and only safe(ish) for occupants, so long as you don't roll (which is more likely), more dangerous for everyone else

yes in relative terms- but you'd have to be an absolute numpty not to drive one as they are meant to be. Also 99% have stability controls to stop that. My old sedan drank more gas than my current SUV so.....

Im more worried about 20 year olds in 300hp Subaru's or P smoking truckies than an SUV. Just drove to Ruapehu and back last weekend - by far the worst drivers were locals i.e. cow cockies driving their ute's like Ayrton Senna on the highways... go figure.

" My old sedan drank more gas than my current SUV so....."

So your old car was old and less efficient than a modern car, or your driving style changed...

You can't escape simple physics, big SUV is heavier = more gas, big SUV is less aerodynamic = more gas (than an equivalent modern sedan)

Yep but you can look down on the peasants in their sedans from your elevated position

Only briefly, as they pass your lumbering landwhale..

I’ll wait for the’Rivian’ thanks.

I want a Ford F350 (semi SUV) completed with bull bar and CREED LED lighting strips so I can come and check on my investment properties dotted around Auckland with ease.

Now get out of my way little CRV and RAV4

Moa. As someone providing a valuable social service to renters, you've earned your F350 along with the admiring looks you will receive. And those lower socio economic types leave such a mess behind when they move that the large rear deck of the 350 is essential to cart away the rubbish. On lighting - I reckon the 'W' configured LED headlamps on some BMW SUV's make more of a statement.

BMW, Audi, Merc aren't real SUV. They are like sportshoes look alike with heels! Beside they probably spend most of their time on a hoist instead of on a hill

Sounds like you haven't experienced owning any of these?

"On lighting - I reckon the 'W' configured LED headlamps on some BMW SUV's make more of a statement."

Does the rest of the statement sound like the the thing with the attached chain you throw off the front of the boat when you've reached your fishing spot?

Prag. You got it. With the extra bright high mount lights pushing hard against your tail and dual 'W's blazing in your rear view mirror, it's not long before the anchoring word crops up.

I'd be tempted to slam the anchors on.. If they can afford to buy a shiny new BMW suv they'll have insurance. wouldn't mind a car upgrade, with someone else paying :)

What's wrong with you, man? Get a proper size pick-up.

Would be good to study the correlation between SUV ownership and being a w*^*er

Audi SQ7, power when you need it, reasonable economy, loads of room and style. Love it. Probably never go back to small cars again.

You do know why fading insecure middle age men need a big car eh?

Plenty of woman buying them also. What does that tell you?

That they have been successfully marketed into thinking SUVs are safer by a marketing department trying to drive up gross margins?

Plenty of women like status and power too.

I didn't realise women could suffer from small willy syndrome... Look how far we have come in the search for equality :)

To be fair I do drive like more of a dick in our SQ7 than in the Golf.

It’s like getting into makes you feel other people need to get out of the way.

We recently bought a brand new RAV4 late last year....sort of an instant decision purchase as our old RAV decided to die in spectacular fashion and the cost to repair was simply too much for the age and kms of the car. Having done the sums (we paid cash by the way out of savings) a second hand RAV 3yrs old with mid 60,000kms on the clock was only $10,000 cheaper than the brand new price of $42,000 (same model comparison). If we could have waited we would have bought one of the new RAV hybrids that have just come out for the same price.....but we couldn't borrow a vehicle from family for 6-7 months to tide us by whilst we waited.

Very impressed with the fuel economy on the larger engine (easily saving $20-25 a week over the old 2004 RAV), the 5 star safety rating, the multiple airbags in the front compartment, the entire Toyota Safety Sense driving wizardry etc. Love the fact that the back seats fold down for more space (in fact the inside cabin is much bigger than our old RAV), it takes 5 hay bales easily, tows like a dream, and has power to burn when needed. We like the 'eco' function, the fact that the car wants to sit in an economical mode, and by god we love the side mirrors and the little light to point out someone is in the blind spot.

However, the incessant beeping to tell us to 'watch out' is driving us a bit mad - great for parking sensors etc, a real pain in the proverbial when you get out to open the gates, drive through, close gates and then continue driving down drive.....beeping all the way because my god the car believes we need our seat belt on for 200m! It is a much bigger version than our old one, something that has taken time to get used to (we can just squeeze into our garage), but in saying that the handling is great.

All in all, and being drivers of SUVs and L300 vans all our collective years, we have no issue with the handling that some of you have mentioned. If you want a SUV then look for a make that has been deliberately designed to be high (like the RAV), not one where the manufacturer has put a car on stilts. To be honest, we were surprised at how cheap new cars are in comparison to the secondhand market. When we bought our old RAV (we'd looked for a 'new to us' car for roughly two years) we took every make and model for a test drive, nothing was off the table; we visited every car dealer in town. We slowly moved towards the SUV and ute ranges because what we needed the vehicle for was more important than just commuting too and fro. We settled on a SUV and eventually the RAV (the only one designed to have a high center of gravity and the only one that didn't roll like a drunkard as you went around corners, and the only one that handled well on both open road and round town), and haven't looked back. I'm not surprised that they are predominant on the roads as they are just too versatile for modern lives.

I'm with you Kirsty on the incessant beepings and warnings. Nag nag nag. That said I love my RAV4. Such a sensible vehicle for all the varying uses I have.

Cant stand SUVs they are always the cnts that cut in front of you and obstruct all of your view. Most of the drivers are middle aged balding, pot bellied men with those gay family stickers on the back and think they are Lewis Hamilton.

Ha ha.
For me they just sum up the 'don't give a toss about others and the planet' mentality that is prevalent

Tui, Fritz, you two have the open mentality of "I don't have it therefore it's crap"

If the government was serious about doing anything about greenhouse gases, it would heavily weight road user taxes and anything else it could lay it's hands on to favour the most fuel efficient vehicles. Simply relying on the current proportionality of fuel use taxes and costs is not enough. Some how it needs to be made a square law or exponential relationship between fuel use and taxes. Say neutral or zero at hybrids rising to a subsidy with e.v.s

My main issue with the majority of SUV and admittedly there are exceptions is that they are really really slow from 0-100km. This is just simple physics. A higher, heavier less aerodynamic vehicle is what it is. I mean you get a green light and they just do not want to roll. Here is the evidence

I like the look of some, but most of them are ugly with big truck like tyres.
Test driven several new ones and to me they always felt like a compromise after driving a modern car.

Try driving a Cayenne, it'll blow your socks away

There's only two things a Cayenne says about its driver:
1) I've got far more money than sense.
2) I'm too much of a coward to by an actual Porsche.

RAV4 currently. Very pleased. Won't do the rough stuff but tows a trailer around a flat paddock quite well.
Replacement will be very similiar and full electric.

Amazing level of abuse here about people, based on the vehicle they drive. Jacinda needs to promote a few photos of her driving a sportage. We are us.

SUV's are horrible to drive, they handle like a pig. Personally a Subaru wagon does it for me, loads of space, AWD, power from a 3 litre engine you would be happy to have in your Porsche and a 6 speed manual. Drives like a sedan and handles like a dream. Still not fuel efficient but if you want the power you have to pay for it at the pump.

You have definitely not driven the right SUV if you think they don't drive well

You're right that SUV handling and ride has improved dramatically since, say, the early 00's. But that's like saying getting Chicken Pox is a dramatic improvement on getting Measles. Compared to the average sedan (or, for the same kind of money, a reasonable sports car) a SUV still feels like you're driving a bowl of soup.

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are diving so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.