New passenger vehicle sales in New Zealand plunged 22.3% year on year to 4,417 in August while 1,076 commercial vehicles were registered , off 33.6%.

"The good news for passenger car sales is that it is not the lowest monthly total in our historical figures - we experienced similar numbers in 1992/93.  Also year to date this number is the fourth highest month," Motor Industry Association CEO Perry Kerr said.

"It is still difficult trading conditions, the year to date total is in line with our revised industry forecast, overall the results were to be expected," added Kerr.  "The winter months are always slower for the industry, we are hopeful that with the first days of spring and warmer times ahead that the market will pick up."

Toyota, Ford and Holden were still the top three marques in the new passenger vehicle sector with Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi the top three in commercial sales.  Year to date, Toyota led with overall market share of 19.17% ahead of Ford (12.42%) and Holden (9.34%).

For August the Holden Commodore was the top selling passenger model, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Ford Mondeo. Year to date, the Corolla remained top with 2,363 units sold, ahead of the Holden Commodore (1,855) and Suzuki Swift (1,587).

The New Zealand Transport Agency said used car registrations - generally imported used cars - were down 15% year on year to 5,874 last month.

New car sales in the country have been volatile through the year, hitting an 11-year low in February as the prolonged recession hit demand and households curbed spending and borrowing.