Electric and hybrid vehicles flying out the door as motorists try to avoid fuel price hike

By Anan Zaki of RNZ

Hybrid and electric vehicles are flying out the doors of used car dealerships, with motorists looking to slash their fuel bills as prices rise.

NZ Automotive Investments (NZAI), which owns the nationwide chain of 2 Cheap Cars, said hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) now make up nearly half of its sales, up from an average of about 20 percent.

The increase has mainly come over the past fortnight, the company said.

Chief executive David Page said sales of the EV/hybrids were going "gangbusters" as the price of petrol and diesel climbed following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions on Russia.

"Kiwis are really interested and concerned around fuel prices and I think that shows with the decisions they are making around purchasing cars," he said.

Switching from an average family car to the company's top selling petrol hybrid, the Toyota Aqua, would see motorists slashing their fuel bills by more than half, Page said.

The boom also comes as the government's clean car rebate scheme expands from next month, to include newly registered petrol hybrids and other low-emission vehicles, whereas at the moment the scheme only included full-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).

Page said dealerships were already prepared for a jump in sales with the looming rebate scheme expansion, but the soaring price of fuel had brought the demand forward.

"We've essentially stocked up for that [rebate] so we're fortunate at the moment to have a good supply of these cars, there is no real wait time on them," he said.

Despite the increasing demand, Page did not believe the prices for used EV/hybrids would also increase.

"I think people are still sourcing them at similar prices. However, there are a lot of other factors at play so we have to see what happens," he said.

The rising cost of fuel was described as an "energy crisis" by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday, as the government announced it would reduce the fuel excise duty and road user charges by 25 cents per litre, for three months.

However, petrol prices are expected to continue climbing, meaning motorists would keep paying well above average over the coming months.

Page believed hybrid and EVs would remain popular in the short to medium term, because motorists had become more fuel conscious when considering the cars they wanted to buy.

Top 3 vehicle sales overall (including non-hybrid/electric) at NZAI:

  • 1. Toyota Aqua (hybrid)
  • 2. Honda Fit Jazz (hybrid)
  • 3. Mazda Axela