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New Zealand EV Market Flat In August 2023

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Although the New Zealand car market rebounded in August with 18,000 light vehicles registered (compare that with Norway’s market of 11,000 and Australia’s 120,000), sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) remain flat. If we include all forms of electrification, two in three vehicles had some form of electric propulsion. A staggering 35% of the market was HEV (conventional plugless hybrids), followed by 32% petrol, 12% BEV, 11% PHEV, and 8% diesel. (Full details on EVdb.)

There has been a huge increase in the sales of HEVs in New Zealand over the past 3 years, coming from about 8% of the market to 35% in 2023. As you would expect, most of these are Toyotas. New Zealanders are looking for fuel-efficient options. Even with government support, though, it appears that BEVs are still a bit too expensive for the average NZ motorist. NZ imports used cars from Japan, which includes a lot of Toyota HEVs and a few Nissan LEAFs.

Top Selling Cars in New Zealand

The ten top selling BEVs in New Zealand in August 2023 were:

  1. BYD Atto 3 (131)
  2. MG4 (96)
  3. Tesla Model Y (72)
  4. MG ZS EV (72)
  5. Ford Mustang Mach-E (53)
  6. Kia Niro (51)
  7. Volkswagen ID.4 (46)
  8. Kia EV6 (34)
  9. Tesla Model 3 (32)
  10. Hyundai Kona EV (22)
NZ EV Market

New EV owners take delivery of an MG4. Photo courtesy of John Baldwin.

The MG4 has just been introduced to the New Zealand market and has landed like a lightning bolt, going straight to the podium. Combining the numbers for the MG ZS EV with the MG4 makes SAIC the #1 EV producer in New Zealand. Tesla is expected to markedly increase its sales with refreshed “Highland” Model 3 imports arriving from China that are supposed to be delivered in September. It appears that BYD is yet to deliver the Dolphin in NZ, while Great Wall Motor sold 7 units of its ORA affordable car. I expect that the ORA and the Dolphin will see significant sales numbers in coming months. BYD plans to deliver the Dolphin this month.

Other brands with small numbers include: Mercedes sold a total of 34 EQA, EQB, and EQE combined; Peugeot sold 23 of its 208 and 2008 EVs; Polestar sold 20 units of the Polestar 2; Volvo sold 13 XC40s; Nissan sold 13 LEAFs; Audi sold 13 EVs; 12 electric MINIs were sold; Opel sold 8 Mokka EVs and 4 Corsa EVs; Fiat sold 4 units of its 500e and one Abarth. So, New Zealanders have a lot of choice.

The top five best-selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in New Zealand in August were:

  1. Mitsubishi Outlander (261)
  2. Mitsubishi Cross (144)
  3. Kia Sorrento (131)
  4. Ford Escape (49)
  5. Mazda CX 60 (35)

These were followed by small numbers from a smattering of brands: BMW, MG, Land Rover, Jeep, Volvo, and others.

As a comparison, the top 5 HEV producers were: Toyota (1,616), Ford (185), Honda (126), Hyundai (122), Lexus (76).

The top 5 petrol car brands were: Kia (243), Suzuki (331), Mitsubishi (234), Mazda (195), Nissan (187). Is it Japan (HEV) vs China (BEV)?

What of the Future?

New Zealanders go to the polls to elect a new national government on October 14. According to recent polls, a right-leaning coalition is on track to win. It has previously pledged to dump New Zealand’s clean car discount, which has been hugely successful in driving the EV surge in the market. With no more motivation for car manufacturers to price their vehicles below the government threshold, some prices are expected to rise. However, market watchers have pointed out that with the influx of more affordable vehicles (particularly the GWM ORA, the MG4, and the BYD Dolphin), this might not be an issue.

The New Zealand National Party is making noise about expanding the charging network, but is sending mixed messages about how this will work. Many New Zealanders have commented on Facebook that it is hard to believe that the Nationals are committed to the proposal and whether they know what they are doing. The recently released electrification policy from the Nationals makes no mention of electric vehicles at all.

“Around 20 per cent of New Zealand’s total emissions come from transport, so embracing EVs is crucial to delivering our climate change commitments,” National Party Leader Christopher Luxon said. “Accelerating the rollout of EV infrastructure, from the 1,200 currently available to 10,000 in 2030, will give more Kiwis the confidence to make the switch to electric.” Luxon announced today that the Nationals would invest $257 million over four years. This is double Labour’s commitment. As an aside, Luxon’s wife drives a Tesla.

Volkswagen New Zealand national sales manager Jordan Haines believes that if the National Party wins the general election and makes good on its election promise to dump the Clean Car Discount rebate programme for electric vehicles, prices on some of the most popular electric vehicles in the country are likely to go up. He shared his thoughts at the launch of the ID.4 recently. The ID.4 would have qualified for the rebate.

The Clean Car Discount scheme currently grants anyone buying an electric vehicle priced at $80,000 or under a $7,015 rebate. This has led to a huge number of electric vehicles being priced at $79,990 ($47,390 USD).

The Nationals have been particularly critical of NZ’s so called “ute tax” when farmers and tradies do not have an electric alternative. “The ute tax on high-emitting vehicles like utes and SUVs is used to fund the rebates for people buying low- or zero-emissions vehicles. The result is that a farmer buying a new ute is hit with tax of $5,175 and winds up subsidising a lawyer buying a Tesla and getting the maximum rebate of $8,625.”

Barriers to EV uptake in New Zealand still include a lack of appropriate models, high prices, and scarcity of high-speed chargers. A change of government may increase the number of chargers, but it will be manufacturers who can impact the choice of vehicles and pricing. With many electric vehicles being imported as used from Japan, it can be difficult to assess battery health and therefore viability. Purchasers of used BEVs will need to educate themselves to make sure they are getting what they are paying for.

It is possible that there will be a surge in EV sales as a date is announced for the withdrawal of government subsidies — as has happened in the UK and EU. Nevertheless, 2023 is tracking to be similar to 2022 in absolute numbers — 20,000 BEVs and 10,000 PHEVs are expected to be added to NZ roads by year’s end. As for 2024, as the dust settles after the election, people will be able to see clearly that new entry-level affordable EVs with better range have arrived. This should drive growth in the new year. Still waiting for the utes, though.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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