New Zealand EV Market Surges in September 2023

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With elections imminent and a right-leaning coalition expected to win, New Zealand new car buyers are about to lose massive bonus/malus benefits from purchasing an electric vehicle. Hence, September’s a buying spree! The NZ market is experiencing a politically-driven pull, with electric vehicles taking 34% of the auto market in September. That is up a whopping 10% over last month. (Approximately 8,000 cars are sold per month in New Zealand.)

After the election is over and the dust settles, it is expected that sales will stabilize. There may even be a decrease. Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the success. New Zealand now has almost 90,000 plug-in vehicles on the road.

Full details from EVDB:

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

  1. Tesla Model Y (697)
  2. MG4 (250)
  3. BYD Atto 3 (136)
  4. BYD Dolphin (107)
  5. MG ZS EV (85)
  6. Kia Niro (70)
  7. Tesla Model 3 (63)
  8. Hyundai Kona (50)
  9. Ford Mustang Mach-E (48)
  10. Kia EV6 (45)
NZ EV Market surges
Taking delivery of an MG4 as New Zealand EV market surges. Photo courtesy of John Baldwin.

We should also add 450 used Nissan LEAFs imported from Japan.

Changes in the chart that are of note from August’s top ten: The Tesla Model Y has gone from third to first; the MG4 has more than doubled its numbers; BYD’s Atto 3, Kia’s Niro, and MG’s ZS EV remain stable.

Volkswagen delivered 14 units of the ID.4 and 13 of the ID.5. The Kia EV6 has increased in delivery volume. Even though Tesla managed to double the number of Model 3 vehicles delivered to 63 units, I expect the refreshed Model 3 to do better in the fourth quarter, depending on pricing and politics.

The Cupra Born, with 21 cars delivered, also deserves a special mention.

New Zealand EV market surges
Cupra Born selling well in NZ. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Based on these figures, the top motor groups for EV sales were Tesla at 760, SAIC (MG) at 335, and BYD at 243.

The MG4 is the lowest-priced pure electric car on sale in New Zealand. The BYD Seal has launched in New Zealand and deliveries are eagerly anticipated.

The Dolphin made a big splash in its first month — landing in the top 5 on entry. The Great Wall ORA seems to be making a slow start, with 7 cars delivered in August and only 10 in September. Once this retro funky sedan is available in better numbers, I expect that the Dolphin, the ORA, and the MG4 will create their own niche on NZ roads and on the best seller chart.

NZ EV Market surges
BYD Dolphin makes best seller list in first month. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

The Model Y was the most registered new car in NZ in September, narrowly beating the Toyota RAV4 (683), with the Ford Ranger in third (605). Five hundred and forty Toyota Hilux trucks were registered to take fourth place overall, followed by the Toyota Yaris Cross (316), Mitsubishi ASX (286), Mitsubishi Outlander (268), MG4 (250), and Mitsubishi Triton (198). What NZ (like Australia) urgently needs is good electric utes.

“As it stands, there is but one electric ute on sale in New Zealand, the LDV eT60. It’s a good start but it’s far from perfect, going without all-wheel drive and making do with a range of 325km … before you load the tray up. What I imagine most would-be buyers are waiting for is the entrance of the likes of Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi. Those big players in the ute game. But where are they?” Certainly not on the ships yet.

NZ EV market surges
LDV electric ute. Photo courtesy of Paul Schofield.

Ford has the F-150 lightning and Mitsubishi is talking about a PHEV version of the Triton but: “… Reece Congdon, head of marketing and corporate affairs for Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand, previously told Stuff that ‘… While we are working closely with our colleagues in Japan on electrifying our range, I can say with complete certainty that a PHEV Triton will not be available in 2023.’”

Perhaps the Chinese will beat the Japanese and Americans to the punch? BYD is talking about a PHEV ute for the antipodes, while Great Wall and Geely are also working on electrified utes. Perhaps 2024 will be the year of the electric ute, as 2023 has been the year of the affordable EV hatch?

As far as hybrids with a plug, the top three best-selling plugin hybrid electric vehicles in New Zealand in August were:

  1. Mitsubishi Outlander (220)
  2. Mitsubishi Cross (157)
  3. Mini Countryman (69)

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

As a comparison, the top 5 HEVs were: Toyota 1366 (mainly RAV4s and Corollas), Ford 233 (mainly the Escape), Honda 152 (manly the Jazz), Hyundai 98 (mainly the Tucson), and Lexus 80 (mainly the UX 250H).

The top 5 petrol cars brands were: Toyota (425); Mitsubishi (423); Suzuki (360); Mazda (153); MG (111). Is it Japan (HEV) vs China (BEV)?

What of the future?

Despite Toyota’s position as chief laggard in the rEVolution, it is having some reasonable sales of its fully electric (made in China) BZ4x. The model is expected to launch in NZ (and Australia) next year and should be a sales success due to Toyota’s reputation for reliability and value for money. The bZ4X is similar in size to the Toyota RAV4 and will be available as front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. What about the weird name? (Sounds like a nickname for one of Elon’s children.) bZ is short for Beyond Zero. Toyota is intimating that the company will not only achieve net zero, but will go “beyond zero.” The four is a size indicator like the RAV4.

As goes Toyota, so goes the rest of the Japanese auto industry. I hope that New Zealand can expect many more electric models from the likes of Mitsubishi, Suzuki, and Mazda. Soon to come to market is the Subaru Solterra (also made in China on the same platform as the bZ4X), the BMW iX1 xDrive20 medium SUV, and the Nissan Ariya. Seven Ariyas were registered in September, most likely to be used as dealer demonstrators.

With a relatively green electricity grid powered primarily by hydro, rapidly increasing petrol prices (currently set at $NZ 2.77 per L, which is approximately NZ$12.50 per gallon), and an expanding electric vehicle range and supply (currently over a hundred models to chose from), picking an electric car makes sense with or without government subsidies in New Zealand. 

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David Waterworth

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].

David Waterworth has 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth