How does NZ’s taste in cars compare with the rest of the world?

As regular readers will know, New Zealanders cannot get enough of the Ford Ranger, the Toyota Hilux, and utes in general.

There is something of a shift emerging in our new-vehicle registration data, in that electrified vehicles (namely pure BEVs) seem to be slowly but surely climbing up the rankings. But, utes remain among the country’s most popular vehicles.

Are these trends local or global? Let’s take a look at the best-selling cars of 2022 from around the world.

Australia: Toyota Hilux (64,391 units sold)

DAMIEN O’CARROLL/FOOTAGE SUPPLIED

Toyota is very serious about claiming the top ute spot back off Ford with the heavily revised Hilux.

Just over a million new vehicles were sold over the ditch last year, with the Hilux comfortably beating the Ranger. Australia is arguably even more ute crazy than New Zealand, with pick-ups accounting for four positions in the country’s top 10.

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Beyond all the utes, the most popular passenger cars were the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Toyota Corolla, MG ZS, and Hyundai i30.

All up, there’s plenty of similarities between our two markets as one might expect. There’s a few curiosities too, like Mitsubishi and Tesla’s relative lack of popularity.

Thailand: Isuzu D-Max (178,407 units sold)

The Isuzu D-Max has long been a Thai institution.

Supplied

The Isuzu D-Max has long been a Thai institution.

It may seem a little left field to include Thailand on this list, but I thought it might be interesting to see how the Asian nation fared in 2022 given that it is the producer of almost all of the most popular utes on sale in New Zealand.

And, sure enough, these utes feature heavily in its national top 10. The recently updated Isuzu D-Max beat the Toyota Hilux, with Ford Ranger fourth and Mitsubishi Triton in ninth. The best-selling passenger cars were the Honda City (a staple among taxi drivers in South East Asia), Toyota Yaris and Toyota Corolla.

It’s worth noting that while officially four utes made it into Thailand’s 10 best sellers for 2022, two ute-based SUVs – the Toyota Fortuner and Isuzu MU-X – also made it in. These feature the same engine and platform as their ute counterparts, but with an SUV bodyshell.

Japan: Honda N-Box (202,197 units sold)

The slabby, adorable Honda N-Box has led the Japanese market for three years on the trot.

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The slabby, adorable Honda N-Box has led the Japanese market for three years on the trot.

Japan may be gaining a reputation for being behind the 8-ball when it comes to the embrace and adoption of EVs, but it also doesn’t sell many big cars or utes.

Its top 10 from last year not only doesn’t feature any utes, it also features just the one SUV. Everything else featured in its top 10 is either a diminutive kei car or a hatchback. The Honda N-Box kei car was first for the year, leading the Toyota Yaris, Toyota Corolla, and Nissan Note.

Six of the 10 best sellers are kei cars; a genre of microcars specific to Japan tailored around the country’s tightly confined urban centers and designed to give customers the most practicality with the least footprint. And they’re awesome.

China: BYD Song (459,424 units sold)

Three of China's most popular vehicles in 2022 were BYDs.

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Three of China’s most popular vehicles in 2022 were BYDs.

BYD, a fresh face to the New Zealand market in 2022, is predictably an enormous mainstay in its homeland of China. Three BYDs were represented in the country’s 2022 top 10 led by the BYD Song, a compact crossover available with either a combustion or EV powertrain.

The Chinese car market is the big spanner in the works for the rest of the motoring world in this current state of electric vehicle transition. Its products are arguably ahead of the wave, evidenced in part by the price advantage cars like the MG ZS EV and BYD Atto 3 have over more mainstream rivals in New Zealand.

Chinese consumers seem to be getting behind EVs, too, with three dedicated EVs (the Wuling Hongguang MINI EV, Tesla Model Y, and BYD Qin PLUS) featured in the national top 10.

United Kingdom: Nissan Qashqai (42,704 units sold)

The updated Qashqai has only recently arrived in New Zealand.

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The updated Qashqai has only recently arrived in New Zealand.

One of the fascinating observations of the New Zealand market is how, while the Ford Ranger sells well, the rest of Ford’s rather solid and handsome line-up seems to struggle. That’s not at all the case in the UK, where three of the blue oval’s models (the Puma, Kuga, and Fiesta) sold well enough to crack the national top 10.

None took the top spot for 2022, though, with the honor instead going to the Nissan Qashqai. While the updated Qashqai has only just landed in New Zealand showrooms, it made it to the UK last year where it dominated the market – beating the next closest car (the Vauxhall Corsa) by almost 7,000 units.

Perhaps the biggest surprise with the UK’s list of most popular cars is that there isn’t a single Toyota in the top 10 despite the Japanese giant’s local production presence. There’s also no utes, and no other Japanese cars beyond the Qashqai.

Norway: Tesla Model Y (17,356 units sold)

The Tesla Model Y was the most popular EV in New Zealand, the UK, and Norway, among other countries.

Nile Bijoux/Stuff

The Tesla Model Y was the most popular EV in New Zealand, the UK, and Norway, among other countries.

The Tesla Model 3 will forever be a watershed release for Tesla. But what’s maybe a little surprising is how much more popular the Model Y has been since its debut in 2021.

The Model Y is a frequent feature across all these lists, and in Norway it was the country’s most popular new car ahead of the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq. Amazingly, BMW’s quite expensive electric luxury flagship iX SUV was the fourth best-selling model.

Norway is known as a global leader when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. EVs accounted for a whopping 73.9% of new vehicle sales. And nine of its top 10 best sellers were pure EVs.

Germany: Volkswagen Golf (84,282 units sold)

It may no longer be available as an EV, but that couldn't stop the Mk8 Golf from topping Germany.

Damien O’Carroll/Stuff

It may no longer be available as an EV, but that couldn’t stop the Mk8 Golf from topping Germany.

The German charts were an absolute Volkswagen-fest, with Veedub’s Golf, Tiguan, and T-Roc sweeping the top three last year. Volkwagen products accounted for half of the top 10, with the Passat and Audi A3 also making an appearance.

Just the one fully electric car (the Tesla Model Y) cracked the German top 10, making it an interesting counterpoint to Norway and underlining that not all consumers on the continent are on the same plug-in page.

Another interesting observation is that Germany is one of the few regions where traditional hatchback and sedan/wagon bodystyles made up the majority of the top 10, outnumbering SUV nameplates six to four.

United States: Ford F-Series (653,957 units sold)

The Ford F-Series has more or less owned the US top spot for decades, a trend that looks set to continue in perpetuity.

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The Ford F-Series has more or less owned the US top spot for decades, a trend that looks set to continue in perpetuity.

Aaaaaand we’re back to utes, with the United States continuing its eternal love of the full-size pick-up. The Ford F-Series (an umbrella term for the likes of the F-150, F-250, and others) led the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pick-up. Combined, the supersized top three account for almost 1.5 million sales alone.

With two other pick-ups making the top 10, it leaves five passenger cars (the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Camry, Honda CR-V, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Toyota Highlander) to fill in the gaps. The best-selling compact car, the Toyota Corolla, was 11th.

Even though they are an American company, Tesla did not feature in the US top 10, let alone its top 20. This is because the brand does not report its sales figures officially in the US. It’s estimated that if it did, the Model Y and 3 would both be classified in the top 15.

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