New vehicle sales in New Zealand started 2019 soft compared to a year ago, the Motor Industry Association said.

MIA data showed 13,938 vehicles registered in January, down 6% year on year, but still the second strongest January on record.

Registrations of passenger vehicles and SUVs were down 7.9% and commercial vehicles were down by 1%. 

Toyota remained overall market leader with 17% market share (2,312 units), followed by Ford with 11% (1,494 units) and Mitsubishi with 9% market share (1,248 units).

Toyota was also the market leader for passenger and SUV registrations with 17% market share (1,718 units) followed by Mazda with 11% (1,052 units) and then by Mitsubishi with 8% market share (803 units). The top selling passenger and SUV models for the month were the Toyota Corolla (669 units of which 428 were rentals) followed by the Mazda CX-5 (364 units) and the Suzuki Swift (351 units).  

In the commercial sector, Ford regained market lead with 22% (888 units) followed by Toyota with 15% (594 units) and Mitsubishi third with 11% market share (445 units). The Ford Ranger easily retained the top spot as the bestselling commercial model with 21% share (837 units) followed by the Mitsubishi Triton with 11% share (445 units) with the Toyota Hilux in unfamiliar territory in third also with 11% market share (434 units). 

Vehicle segmentation for January 2019 continued recent trends with SUVs and light commericals dominating the market. The top two segments for the month were SUV medium vehicles with 16% share followed by SUV Compact with 15% market share and then the Pick Up/Chassis Cab 4x4 segment with 14% market share.

"As 2019 gets under way, the economic environment that existed this time last year and before that has begun to fundamentally change, albeit slowly. However, levels of new vehicle sales while softer than this time last year, remain at historically high levels," the MIA said.