New Zealand Exceeds 50% Electric Vehicle Penetration In December 2023!

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With the threat of loss of subsidies, New Zealanders have bought electric vehicles at an unprecedented rate, achieving 50% penetration in December 2023. Changes in government regulations around the so called “ute tax,” a bonus malus tax that increased the prices of diesel- and petrol-powered cars and decreased the prices of electrics, has led to what is most likely a short-term rush. James at EVDB calls it an “anomaly.” The first quarter of 2024 may be closer to the reality of the New Zealand market.

Nevertheless, it is a significant improvement on November’s figures, when New Zealand achieved a 30% penetration rate.

In December, 4,455 battery electric vehicles were registered in New Zealand. The MG4 and the Nissan LEAF led the pack — although, most of the LEAFs were imported used vehicles from Japan. There were 1,610 plug-in hybrids also added to the fleet. The 622 MG4s made it the most popular of all light vehicles of any fuel type. New vehicles now for sale in New Zealand include the Subaru Solterra and its Toyota clone, the BZ4 (50 sales), the BYD Seal (59 sales), and the Jeep Avenger (35 sales).

Of the almost 10,000 light vehicles sold in December, BEVs comprised 39% (3,357, up from 23% in November); PHEVs took 12% of the market (987, up slightly from 10% in November); and 2,644 plug-less hybrids were sold for 31% market share (up from 2,000 last month). Additionally, 1,338 petrol-powered cars were sold as well as a measly 233 diesels — consisting mainly of Land Cruiser Prados.

Most HEVs (plug-less hybrids) were from Toyota — the Yaris and RAV4 — followed by the Honda Jazz. Some analysts have added up the vehicles with some sort of electrification (BEV + PHEV + HEV) and have declared that New Zealand has reached 80% of new vehicles with some level of electrification.

It will be interesting to watch the New Zealand market as it adjusts to EVs without significant government subsidies. Where will it settle? Has the pendulum swung? Have EVs gained enough credibility to continue to grow their market share? Can carmakers match prices for the budget conscious? With a third of new buyers opting for plug-less hybrids, can Toyota transition its client base to BEVs? Does it want to? Toyota has been very successful in selling its hybrid technology, with HEV sales going from approximately 10% of the market in Jan 2021 to 30% of the market in 2023 in New Zealand.

The top ten best selling battery electric vehicles sold in New Zealand in December 2023 were:

  1. MG4 (622), up from 468 last month
  2. BYD Atto 3 (428), up from 337 last month
  3. Tesla Model Y (356), down from 544 last month
  4. Tesla Model 3 (202) — wasn’t even in the top 10 last month!
  5. BYD Dolphin (163), up from 95 last month
  6. Hyundai Kona (160)
  7. BYD Seal (159)
  8. Kia EV6 (151)
  9. Great Wall Motors ORA (114)
  10. Ford Mustang Mach-E (90)

On the podium for auto brands, the gold goes to MG (711), the silver to BYD (650), and the bronze to Tesla (558). Tesla was #1 in November when it delivered 544 Model Ys. Skoda fell off the chart but delivered a commendable 62 Skoda Enyaqs. There are over 25 car brands selling battery electric vehicles in New Zealand, offering numerous models, which gives New Zealanders massive choice.

The top ten best selling plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) were:

  1. Mitsubishi Outlander (320)
  2. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (249)
  3. Ford Escape (133)
  4. Kia Sorrento (38)
  5. MG HS (32)
  6. Cupra Formentor (32)
  7. Kia Niro (21)
  8. Jeep Compass (19)
  9. Mini Countryman (16)
  10. Mazda CX 60 (15)

One highlight from the data includes: more Mitsubishi PHEV Outlanders (276) sold than Toyota’s diesel Land Cruiser Prados (70). However, PHEV sales may not survive the loss of tax benefits. We’ll have to wait and see.

By the end of December 2023, there are 73,000 battery electric vehicles on New Zealand roads and a further 30,000 PHEVs. The numbers have more than doubled in the last two years. New Zealand is reaching the steep part of the S-curve for the adoption of disruptive technology, up from a 1% penetration in 2018. There is still a need for carmakers to provide electric utes and vans, as only 1.5% of new utes and vans registered in 2023 were battery electric.

If carmakers are unable to match the perceived “discount” that came through the government rebate, there may be an increase in prices of new EVs. There is some speculation amongst the New Zealand EV community about what will happen to prices of both new and second-hand “imports.” Only time will tell. Businesses charge what the market will pay. However, one good piece of advice is to buy as soon as you are able, because you will save money on fuel and maintenance. Petrol is currently selling at almost $3 a litre in Auckland. Also, it is hard to put a price on the joy you get from driving an EV and helping the planet. However, the success of the MG4 points to the New Zealand driver’s sensitivity to price.

“By the end of this decade, more than 50% of monthly vehicle sales in New Zealand need to be electric in order to meet our emissions reductions targets. This requires a jump from about 6,000 electric vehicles (bought in 2020) to annual sales of 150,000 electric vehicles (NZTA).”

While they can’t do the job alone, electric vehicles have an indispensable role to play in reaching net-zero emissions worldwide,
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, notes.

It will be fascinating to watch the New Zealand auto market in 2024. How far will New Zealand get towards its aspiration to become the Norway of the Pacific and the total phaseout of fossil fueled vehicles by 2035? My educated guess is that new fossil fueled light vehicles will be well on their way to extinction by the end of the decade.


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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 738 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth