March sales of 4,881 new cars in New Zealand were 28.6% up on February while still down 23.3% on March 2008.

New commercial vehicle sales of 1,564 were 23.8% up on February but 37.2% down on the corresponding month last year.

"If we've reached the bottom then this is good news for the industry, as the only way from here is up," said Motor industry Association CEO Perry Kerr.

"Our new vehicle market is showing considerable resilience in the face of the most negative economic cycle the world has seen since the 1930s," Kerr added.

"The Australian new vehicle market was down 20% in March compared to March 2008 (similar to ours), but in the USA it was down by over 40%.

We remain positive that our economy will not be as badly affected as those of the industrialised nations of the northern hemisphere, and that our new vehicle sector will play a pivotal role in the recovery,"

Toyota continued to dominate both the new passenger car and commercial vehicle markets, but a surprise result in March saw Hyundai finishing second in passenger car sales for the month, with Ford third.

Toyota's Corolla continued as the top-selling individual model, extending its YTD lead over GM Holden's Commodore with the Ford Focus remaining the third best selling model.