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.