SUV sales con­tinue to climb

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring -

DE­SPITE the ris­ing cost of fuel, New Zealan­ders seem more com­mit­ted to the idea of an SUV as their per­sonal choice for trans­port than ever be­fore, said the Mo­tor Trade As­so­ci­a­tion.

Anal­y­sis of the new car mar­ket over the last five years shows own­ers have taken to SUVs in steadily in­creas­ing num­bers and are now just be­hind small cars as the largest seg­ment in the mar­ket. Sales in 2010 to­talled al­most 11,500 with Toy­ota’s RAV4 and High­lander bat­tling for the top spots with mod­els like Mit­subishi’s Out­lander range.

This growth, from 20 to 26 per cent of over­all new car sales in that time, was not re­ally sur­pris­ing said Ian Stronach, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s 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,’’ he said.

Sur­pris­ingly, 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 per cent of the new car mar­ket with the light seg­ment (typ­i­cally 1.6-2.0 litres) suf­fer­ing an even larger re­duc­tion, fall­ing from 20 per cent to 17 per cent.

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 per cent dur­ing 2010, buy­ers have opted for SUVs at an ever greater rate, a ve­hi­cle type not gen­er­ally associated with high lev­els of fuel ef­fi­ciency.

‘‘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,’’ Mr Stronach said.

With ve­hi­cle weights typ­i­cally start­ing from 1500kg, a high seat­ing po­si­tion that af­fords good vis­i­bil­ity and with an air of rugged­ness sur­round­ing them, SUVs are of­ten re­garded by buy­ers as a ‘‘safer’’ al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional cars. With­out doubt, this has been one of the fac­tors that have seen SUVs in­creas­ingly favoured by those that still need larger car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, be it for lug­gage or pas­sen­gers.

Their de­sign means peo­ple are in­creas­ingly pass­ing over the tra­di­tional ‘‘big six’’ type car in favour of some­thing that will meet their space re­quire­ments but at the same time is con­sid­ered by many to have a more sport­ing ap­peal, de­spite the fact that some SUVs are now only be­ing of­fered with two-wheel drive ca­pa­bil­ity.

Even though this most re­cent SUV surge has seen buy­ers mi­grat­ing from al­most all other mar­ket seg­ments it has been the large car seg­ment (3.0 litres and above) that has been hard­est hit. At 12 per cent it is now 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.

Over the years, man­u­fac­tur­ers have be­come adept at an­tic­i­pat­ing cus­tomers’ chang­ing needs.

While a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in fuel costs may drive more peo­ple to smaller and more fuel efficient cars, for now at least, SUVs re­ally have be­come part and par­cel of the New Zealand driv­ing land­scape.

Com­mit­ted: New Zealan­ders love their SUVs.

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