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Kiwis love their SUVs


New Zealanders have taken to SUVs in increasing numbers over the past five years, reveals a new report

New Zealanders seem more committed to the idea of an SUV as their personal choice for transport than ever before, says the Motor Trade Association (MTA).

SUVs now sit just behind small cars as the largest segment in the market. Sales in 2010 alone totalled almost 11,500 units, with Toyota’s RAV4 and Highlander models battling out for the top spots with models like Mitsubishi’s Outlander range.

This growth, from 20% to 26% of overall new car sales in that time, is not really surprising says Ian Stronach, MTA Marketing and Communications General Manager. “The trend towards SUVs is well established in overseas markets and has been for some time. We’ve basically just followed that growth in popularity here. As more models become available, it may well become the most popular class of vehicle on the market.”

What is surprising though is that at least some of this growth appears to have come at the expense of smaller, and more fuel efficient vehicles. During 2010, the small car segment (typically under 1.5 litres) dropped from 29% to 27% of the new car market, with the light segment (typically 1.6 – 2.0 litres) suffering an even larger reduction, falling from 20% to 17%.

Fuel prices have traditionally been a key factor in vehicle choice, with a swing to smaller cars as prices increase. This time though, despite petrol increasing in price by around 20% during 2010, buyers have opted for SUVs at an ever greater rate, a vehicle type not generally associated with high levels of fuel efficiency.

Stronach says, “It may be that owners have become more resigned to higher fuel prices over the last few years and are making their decisions based on factors other than fuel efficiency. There has not been the large-scale shift to smaller cars that may have been expected, and it seems likely that ‘lifestyle’ factors are increasingly coming in to play.”

This recent SUV surge has seen buyers ‘migrating’ from almost all other segments of the market, with the large car segment (3.0 litres and above) hardest hit. It has continued to shrink, and at just 12%, is now the smallest segment in the market; just half the level it was in 2004. Traditional favourites like Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon remain relatively popular within a reduced segment albeit at volumes that have virtually halved in the past five years.

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