NZ new car sales driven higher by commercial vehicles in April

MIA chief executive David Crawford said the increase showed the sector was still performing "above market expectations".

New Zealand's new vehicle sales continued to rise in April, driven by a record number of commercial cars sold for the month, says the Motor Industry Association.

Registrations of new vehicles rose 7 percent to 10,635 in April from the same month a year earlier, led by a 16 percent gain in commercial vehicle registrations to 3,639, the MIA said in a statement. Passenger car registrations rose a more modest 3 percent to 6,996.

MIA chief executive David Crawford said the increase showed the sector was still performing "above market expectations" and could have been even higher had some distributors not struggled with supply constraints.

"Monthly registrations of 10,635 vehicles were the strongest month of April on record, and only the second time since the MIA began collecting data that the month of April has surpassed 10,000 units," he said. "The other time was way back in 1982."

The market has been on a tear for the past three years, setting new records every month through that period as the country's relatively strong labour market has provided enough jobs for an expanding population. At the same time, New Zealand's currency has been elevated against many of its peers, making imports cheaper for local consumers, although the kiwi fell 1.4 percent in April on a trade-weighted basis.

Government figures show the value of New Zealand imports on a cost, insurance and freight basis of vehicles, parts and accessories almost doubled to $7.17 billion in the year ended June 30, 2016, from the 2010 June year, the last time the annual value of those imports shrank.

In February, NZX-listed vehicle distributor Colonial Motor Co said the market continued to grow, with strong forward orders for heavy trucks and signs of new life in the agricultural sector, which had been in the doldrums after a slump in global dairy prices early last year. The shares last traded at $7.60, and have gained 8.6 percent so far this year.

The MIA figures show year-to-date registrations rose 13 percent to 50,059. Japanese car maker Toyota was the most popular car in the year-to-date figures with 16 percent growth in registrations, followed by US automaker Ford at 11 percent. Holden was the third most popular manufacturer with 9 percent.