Colorado leads the chas­ing pack


BE­HIND THE RANGER AND HILUX, THE BAT­TLE FOR the fi­nal podium place seems to have been set­tled in the Holden Colorado’s favour. The Holden’s re­fine­ment, han­dling and con­nec­tiv­ity un­der­went a ma­jor trans­for­ma­tion with a mid-2016 re­vamp, and by the end of this Au­gust it ap­peared to have bro­ken free of the three-way bat­tle for third place.

Holden made the truck more ur­ban user- and fam­ily-friendly with­out sac­ri­fic­ing its high level of off-road com­pe­tence.

The re­sult was a new Colorado that is a ma­jor im­prove­ment on its pre­de­ces­sor, and it has struck a chord with buy­ers. How­ever, hopes that the up­grades would help it close the gap to the Ranger and Hilux have failed to be re­alised.

Holden sold 362 Colorados in Au­gust: that com­pares with 417 sales dur­ing Au­gust last year when it was also in third place.

The Gen­eral Mo­tors ute was on run-out then be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of the re­freshed Colorado in mid-septem­ber, and Holden was of­fer­ing some good deals.

The Au­gust 2016 to­tal was only 69 be­hind the Hilux which trig­gered spec­u­la­tion that if the new Colorado could get the sales boost that usu­ally ac­com­pa­nies a new model, the Holden might make a bid for sec­ond spot.

That didn’t hap­pen, but by the end of the year, the Colorado was still in third place, though it was com­ing un­der vig­or­ous at­tack by the Mit­subishi Tri­ton and Nis­san Navara.

The ques­tion was whether the two Ja­panese utes could main­tain that pres­sure in 2017 and close in on third place but de­spite some at­trac­tive price, in­ter­est rate and equip­ment of­fers by the other two makes, the Holden re­tained a use­ful mar­gin.

YTD to Au­gust 31, the Colorado had amassed 3085 reg­is­tra­tions, the fourth-placed Tri­ton was on 2758, and the Navara was on 2197, and sat fifth on the lad­der.

The Tri­ton has had a good year, with strong sales months fu­elled by Mit­subishi’s at­trac­tive Fiel­d­ays deals.

It took the mo­men­tum into Au­gust, record­ing 278 sales that put it into fourth place for the month. It was a use­ful in­crease over the 232 the Tri­ton recorded in the same month last year.

The Navara was fifth in Au­gust with 256 sales, a drop from the 276 that gave it fourth place in Au­gust last year. The gap between the two fig­ures is roughly the num­ber of sales that the now off-the­mar­ket petrol-en­gined DX model would have recorded.

The petrol Navara’s engine didn’t meet the now-manda­tory Euro 5 which meant it had to leave the line-up. It had con­sis­tently made up 10 per­cent of the Nis­san ute’s monthly sales.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the Navara had been the sec­ond or third best-sell­ing ute in New Zealand, but it has now slipped to fifth.

Some pun­dits sug­gest one of the rea­sons for the po­si­tion slip is that the cur­rent Navara – in­tro­duced in 2015 – is too nar­row in the cabin.

They point to anec­do­tal ev­i­dence that pre­vi­ous model Navara own­ers look­ing to move up to the new one have been dis­mayed by the nar­rower cabin.

That may be a con­cern for po­ten­tial buy­ers of the yet-to-bere­leased Mercedes-benz X-class and Re­nault Alaskan utes that use the Navara as a base.

Nei­ther Euro­pean brand, of course, is a tra­di­tional ute seller, so buy­ers may not ap­proach the ve­hi­cles with pre-con­ceived ideas of how wide a ute cabin should be.

Mazda’s BT-50 found it­self in a sur­pris­ing sixth place in Au­gust, leapfrog­ging the Isuzu D-max. The Mazda has strug­gled to make much im­pact in the past few years, largely we sus­pect be­cause of its quirky and un­con­ven­tional styling which some buy­ers seem to re­gard as lack­ing in machismo.

The styling re­vamp it gained in 2015 toned down the more ex­treme as­pects of the de­sign – around the head- and tail-lights and ra­di­a­tor grille – but ini­tially had lit­tle ef­fect on sales.

How­ever with the ute mar­ket ex­pand­ing the Mazda has also been gain­ing ground and its 241 sales in Au­gust were near to dou­ble the 130 it achieved in the same month last year.

YTD to Au­gust 31, the Mazda was in sev­enth spot with 1497 reg­is­tra­tions; a year ago its sales to­tal was 1204 for the first eight months.

Isuzu’s rough di­a­mond in a vel­vet glove, the D-max, was NZ’S sev­enth best-sell­ing ute in Au­gust, with 213 sales.

Isuzu Utes NZ em­pha­sises the D-max’s truck DNA – its engine is shared with the N-se­ries light-duty truck – and it has a rep­u­ta­tion for solid en­gi­neer­ing and vir­tu­ally bul­let­proof pow­er­train and run­ning gear.

Pro­vided it is ser­viced metic­u­lously, the engine is re­puted to be en­gi­neered to do 600,000km with­out ma­jor me­chan­i­cal work.

D-max sales this Au­gust were a lit­tle down on the 234 it recorded last year, but over­all the truck has been en­joy­ing strong year-on-year growth .

YUTD to Au­gust 31, it had amassed 1800 sales had sat on rung six of the sales lad­der; that com­pares with 1587 dur­ing the same pe­riod of 2016 and full year reg­is­tra­tions of 2390.

In eighth place in Au­gust was the only Euro­pean ute on the mar­ket, the Volk­swa­gen Amarok. Its 98 sales were more than three times the 31 it achieved in the same month of 2016, though last year’s re­sult was af­fected by VW New Zealand’s Amarok reshuf­fle.

That reshuf­fle saw the long-awaited 165kw/550nm 3.0-litre V6 en­ter the range and the four-cylin­der got more power – it now has

132kw and 420Nm – and a re-ar­ranged line-up.

All Amaroks save for the $49,990 Core have an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and per­ma­nent four-wheel core drive. The Core has se­lectable four-wheel drive and runs a six-speed man­ual gear­box.

That there was pent-up de­mand for a V6 ver­sion is shown by the strong growth in Amarok sales dur­ing 2017, even though the more lux­u­ri­ous of VW’S wo six-cylin­der utes, the 4WD Aven­tura, car­ries a $82,990 pric­etag.

The Aven­tura is ex­tremely well-equipped and has taken the ute cat­e­gory into new price ter­ri­tory.

Its mar­ket suc­cess should be heart­en­ing for Mercedes-benz whose X-class is sure to have pric­ing that re­flects the brand’s up­mar­ket po­si­tion.

Volk­swa­gen had sold 629 Amaroks to the end of Au­gust; at the same time last year, its ac­cu­mu­lated sales were 451. The eight month tally is not that far short of the Amarok’s 2016 whole year sales of 676. It’s on tar­get to rack up 1000 sales by the end of 2017.

Fo­ton’s Tun­land was ninth on the Au­gust sales lad­der with 38 sales and held the same spot YTD with a to­tal of 434 reg­is­tra­tions (see sep­a­rate story on Chi­nese utes on the NZ mar­ket).

Ssangyong’s Ac­tyon slot­ted into tenth place in Au­gust, with 35 sales. Like the Navara, the Ac­tyon range is now all-diesel and the petrol vari­ant has left the mar­ket. The rea­son was dif­fer­ent, how­ever; the Korean brand didn’t make a petrol Ac­tyon fit­ted with ESC.

In Au­gust 2016, the Ac­tyon was in eighth place with 86 sales; 23 of those were for the petrol-en­gined vari­ant.

Ssangyong NZ has been of­fer­ing good deals on Ac­tyons in re­cent times, with 4x4 ver­sions at the two-wheel drive price, and a run-out spe­cial that cut $7000 off the price of a Work­mate 4WD man­ual.

The cur­rent Ac­tyon is among the old­est mod­els on the mar­ket, and a re­place­ment is over­due. The new ute, which is big­ger and more re­fined, is ex­pected to hit the lo­cal mar­ket in the sec­ond quar­ter of next year.

Year-to-date to Au­gust 31, the Korean ute was in tenth spot with 423 sales; at the same time last year it was in eighth spot with 450 sales.

Holden stops build­ing the rear-wheel drive Com­modore this month, and the ute ver­sion, the last of the car-based utes will fol­low its Ford Fal­con ri­val into au­to­mo­tive his­tory.

To me, it’s a sad day – as it was when we bid farewell to the Fal­con ute last year – but Holden gave the model a good send-off with a se­ries of spe­cial edi­tion mod­els.

In Au­gust Holden NZ sold 21 Com­modore Utes and three of the HSV Maloo ul­tra-high-per­for­mance ver­sions. Those com­bined sales gave the car­line 11th spot.

YTD to Au­gust 31 it was also 11th with a to­tal of 131 sales – 114 Com­modore Utes and 17 Maloos.

In­dian brand Mahin­dra’s quirk­ily-styled utes con­tinue to sell in small num­bers, and dur­ing Au­gust just three were reg­is­tered.

Two of them were the less suc­cess­ful Ge­nio which, in four-door dou­ble cab form, al­most re­de­fined awk­ward­ness of looks.

With the cab fin­ish­ing just ahead of the rear wheels, the four-door Ge­nio looked se­ri­ously out-of-pro­por­tion, an im­pres­sion ex­ag­ger­ated by the high-roofed cab.

In its time on the mar­ket, the Ge­nio has strug­gled to make a sales im­pact but – as it nears the end of its NZ sales life – sweet­heart deals on price and dis­trib­u­tor-sup­plied load trays have seen it do bet­ter.

The Ge­nio’s strengths have been its pay­load of more than one tonne and the sin­gle cab’s abil­ity to take an ex­tra-long load tray, but they haven’t been enough to over­come the po­lar­is­ing styling.

That the deals are work­ing is shown by the Au­gust sales which were 200 per­cent up on Au­gust 2016 when no Ge­nios were sold.

Year-to-date to Au­gust 31, Ge­nio reg­is­tra­tions sat at 21, a use­ful in­crease on the lack-lus­tre 12 for the same pe­riod last year.

The other Mahin­dra is the Pik-up, an al­to­gether more rugged­feel­ing truck than the Ge­nio, though both are solidly-built and feel as if they could take end­less pun­ish­ment and still sur­vive.

Both share the same tur­bod­iesel mo­tor and both drive rea­son­ably­well – cer­tainly they’re not as agri­cul­tural as their looks might sug­gest.

The Pik-up re­mains on the NZ mar­ket un­der the co-called Grand­fa­ther Clause that al­lows ve­hi­cles with­out ESC to be sold un­til stocks are ex­hausted.

To qual­ify, ve­hi­cles had to be landed be­fore ESC be­came manda­tory on July 1, 2015; they also had to be pre-de­liv­ery in­spected and is­sued with War­rants of Fit­ness. Sev­eral im­porters, in­clud­ing the Mahin­dra dis­trib­u­tor landed large stocks of ve­hi­cles be­fore the cut-off.

Only one Pik-up was reg­is­tered in Au­gust, and YTD sales to the end of Au­gust were 31.

Amer­i­can brand Ram’s 2500 and 3500 pick-up trucks are also small play­ers on the NZ mar­ket which is un­sur­pris­ing given their hefty pric­etags.

Where the Ge­nio is mar­keted at un­der $20,000, the Ram 2500, the cheaper of the two Yank trucks, costs around $164,000.

But it sells steadily, av­er­ag­ing just un­der five reg­is­tra­tions a month. It was down a lit­tle in Au­gust, with three sales, but YTD it had amassed 37.

The 2500’s largely-iden­ti­cal but more ex­pen­sive 3500 si­b­ling of­fers greater tow­ing abil­ity but had found only one buyer dur­ing the first eight months of 2017.

When the Rams came on to the mar­ket in mid-2016 there were plenty of scep­tics who felt that at best it would be a flash in the pan at a price north of $160,000.

In its first few months on the mar­ket it had racked up 28 sales by De­cem­ber 31; so far this year, Ram sales to­talled 38 by Au­gust 31.

Suzuki’s diminu­tive and un­de­ni­ably cute Jimny isn’t strictly a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle but a sub-com­pact 4x4 SUV, but the NZ Trans­port Agency lumps it in with the LCV mar­ket.

It’s an old-school 4x4 with solid axles front and rear to en­hance ar­tic­u­la­tion in off-road go­ing – where, in­ci­den­tally, the lit­tle ve­hi­cles ex­cels.

Last year, the Jimny had sev­eral months in which it recorded no sales, and then had a rel­a­tively-strong Au­gust with three reg­is­tra­tions.

In the first eight months of 2016, it had amassed 12 sales; for the full year, to­tal sales were 19.

Fast-for­ward to 2017, and the lit­tle 4x4 has de­vel­oped a new lease on life; though the num­bers re­main small, de­mand for the Jimny caught Suzuki NZ by sur­prise and by mid-year stocks were very short.

Four were reg­is­tered in Au­gust and the tally for the first eight months of the year was 29, ten more than it did in the whole of 2016.

A new Jimny is just months away but the next gen­er­a­tion has chunkier, more an­gu­lar styling and to our eyes at least its .lines are less ap­peal­ing than the cur­rent model’s.

Two other utes achieved sales in Au­gust, the Great Wall Steed and fel­low Chi­nese-built new­comer, the LDV T60.

Great Wall moved 15 Steeds – eight of them petrol – and in its first month on the mar­ket, the LDV racked up a cred­itable 20 sales (see a sep­a­rate story on Chi­nese utes else­where in this magazine).

Af­ter the first eight months of 2017, the ute mar­ket peck­ing or­der – save for the D-max and the BT-50 – seemed to have set­tled into a sta­ble pat­tern.

• Story based on regis­tra­tion fig­ures sup­plied by the NZ Trans­port Agency (NZTA) and an­a­lysed by LCV magazine’s con­sul­tant, Robin Yates.

Left: Ssangyong is of­fer­ing some at­trac­tive deals on its Ac­tyon ute. All-new model is ex­pected in first half of 2018. Mid­dle: Fo­ton re­tailed 434 Tun­lands dur­ing first eight months of 2017, Dressed-up show car is pic­tured at Fiel­d­ays 2017. Right: Mazda...

Top: Nis­san Navara sat fifth in monthly sales in Au­gust. Loss of petrol model has seen sales drop around 10 per­cent. Be­low: Mit­subishi Tri­ton con­tin­ues to sell strongly, was fourth in Au­gust.

Holden Colorado has set­tled into a solid third place in New Zealand ute sales.

Well-re­garded VW Amarok sales have risen on the back of new V6 and re­vamped line-up.

Isuzu D-max sales suf­fered a blip in Au­gust but year-on-year were ahead of 2016 lev­els.

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