New Zealand used car imports continue to boom

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Words: Matthew Hansen
28 May 2021

Few factions in the motoring community felt the impacts of Covid-19 more than the second-hand car industry. Numerous dealerships closed in a period where times were already tough. But, things are looking up.

Last month it was reported that some 11,008 imports were registered in March; a healthy 28.5 per cent increase on the data from March 2020 — the last month before New Zealand was hit with its first lockdown.

The numbers appear to be no flash in the pan if fresh data from Stats NZ is anything to go by. According to the group, $5billion of goods were imported into the country last month; a 26 per cent increase on last April’s data.

Out of that figure, passenger cars accounted for $433million, representing a gargantuan 75 per cent increase on the data collected in April 2020.

“The rise in import values contrasts with a fall of similar magnitude in import values in April 2020,” says international trade manager at Stats NZ, Alasdair Allen.

“In April 2020, New Zealand had entered Covid-19 level-four lockdown, non-essential businesses had closed, and domestic and international travel was restricted.”

Last month’s figures represent a slight decline on the explosive March covered earlier. However, it does continue a positive trend for the industry, showing that around $400million worth of cars have hit the country in every month since December last year — a figure similar to pre-Covid-19 data from 2019.

The industry’s lowest point during 2020’s tumultuous lockdown period was in May, when just over $150million of cars came into the country.

The Stats NZ report dovetails with the group’s findings that used car prices in New Zealand increased by 8.2 per cent on average during the first quarter of 2021 — the biggest jump the sector has seen since 2012.

“There have been many delays with imports of goods into New Zealand,” said Stats NZ senior prices manager Aaron Beck at the time.

“This may have resulted in fewer cars available for sale. [...] Also, international travel has been restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may have boosted demand for used cars as people wanted other ways to spend their money.”

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