New Zealand’s Motor Industry Association said last month was the strongest March on record for sales of new vehicles, a year on from the country’s first COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

But the sector was still operating with disrupted supply amid chip supply shortages. As shipments arrive, vehicles are going straight through Customs, distributor pre-delivery inspections, entry compliance, to the franchised dealer and direct to the new owner who, invariably, has been on a waiting list.

“Comparing March this year to March 2020 is a statistical challenge due to lost delivery time as we entered full lockdown and current month arrivals are mainly fulfilling long wait lists,” the MIA said. 

March 2021 registrations of 15,498 were up 86.3% on March 2020. Year to date, the market was up 27.6% compared to the first quarter of 2020.

Registration of 10,113 passenger and SUVs for March 2021 was up 27.3%  while commercial vehicle registrations of 5,385 were up 85.6%.

The top three models last month were all commercial vehicles – the Toyota Hilux (1,019 units), Ford Ranger (828) and Mitsubishi Triton (691).

Toyota remained the overall market leader with 15% market share followed by Mitsubishi (11%) and Ford (9%).

New Zealand has largely eradicated COVID-19 due to strict lockdowns, closed borders and mandatory arrivals quarantine and life is as normal as possible. This week it announced plans to establish a travel bubble with near neighbour and key trading partner Australia.