Sales of new vehicles in New Zealand for the first six months of 2002 are 16% ahead of those for the same period of last year, writes Dave Moore.

With many new models waiting in the wings, things look likely to stay on that curve until the end of the year, though the general election in July 27 may temper buying briefly for the start of the second half of 2002.

New Zealand passenger vehicle sales for H1 finished with the ubiquitous Toyota badge easily outpacing its rivals, despite strong showings from Holden and Ford earlier in the year.

Though the two Australian-based brands will likely claw back some of the Toyota lead in the second half of the year with the arrival of Holden's new Vectra and facelifted Commodore and Ford's completely new Falcon, Toyota's new Camry due in September will keep the big Aussies honest.

Toyota's 5,304 unit sales for the half year give it a passenger car market share of 17.5% to Holden's 5,116 (16%), and Ford's relatively distant 4,499 (14.9%). Fourth position for the half year was taken by Mitsubishi with 2,414 sales, while Honda outpaced Nissan 2,186 to 2,166 for fifth and sixth places respectively.

For the month of June, Toyota's share of the total 5,742 passenger car market was 22.2% with 1,279 sales, ahead of Holden's 993 cars sold (17.3%) and Ford's 875 (15.2%).

Surprise fourth place getter for June was Honda with 451 car sales for 7.8% market share as a result of a strong market appreciation of the company's innovative fixed margin pricing policy which has had many competitors having to discount to match their sticker value.

The company's position should to be further reinforced in future months with the arrival of the long-awaited Jazz, which is expected undercut rivals' equivalent model pricing by several thousand dollars, just as its Civic, CRV and Accord already do.

Mitsubishi, in fifth place on 441 sales for a 7.7% market share is followed by Nissan with just 303 units sold for its 5.3% slice.

Nissan is expected to compete more strongly in the passenger car market in the ensuing months on the introduction of its new Primera, which should make the mid-sized family and fleet sedan segment really interesting in the second half of the year in New Zealand as Primera competes head on with segment-leading Mondeo, the new Vectra and Camry and the soon to arrive Mazda 6.

The latter model will be a godsend for Mazda which sits in an abject seventh place in terms of passenger car sales with just 158 units sold in June for 2.7% share, almost line ball with Subaru on 154 sales.

During June, Mazda actually sold more commercial vehicles than passenger cars with 222 light trucks and vans sold, a segment also dominated by Toyota with 520 sales to Holden and Ford's 369 and 348 units respectively.

Of the total of 39,875 passenger and commercial vehicles sold to YTD June in New Zealand, Toyota's slice amounts to 18.7% with 7,463 sales, to Holden's 6,966 units (17.5%) and Ford's 6285 (15.8%).