Sean Plunket moots idea of New Zealand driving on right side of road after Holden decision

Broadcaster Sean Plunket has mooted a "wacky", but "inevitable", idea of moving New Zealand drivers to the right side of the road with steering wheels on the left of the car.

It comes after General Motors announced its Holden brand would wind down operations and sales in Australia and New Zealand in 2021. The company said "the highly fragmented right-hand drive markets" impacted the decision to stop investing in the beloved vehicles.

In response, Plunket said it might be the right time for New Zealand to begin considering moving to driving on the right. 

"I am going to throw a slightly wacky idea out there. Holden is gone. Why? Because General Motors doesn't want to invest money in making right-hand drive cars for left-hand drive roads. There just isn't enough money in it," he said on Magic Talk.

"I think as we move into new technologies for automobiles, I think it is time we talked about changing the side of the road we drive on and going to left-hand drive vehicles with the steering wheel on the left. I just think that is inevitable.

"We should get with the programme now and have a plan for it, as new vehicles come online and the costs of producing them and right-hand drive, and no one is specifically making any right-hand drive or designing right-hand drive vehicles now. I think it is time we spit the bullet."

Plunket said currently 75 countries drive on the left compared to the 165 which drive on the right.

"I just think we need to get global on this issue," he said.

Japan, a right-hand market, continues to be the biggest supplier of vehicles to New Zealand, followed by Thailand and Korea, according to Driven. The United States - a left-hand driving nation - is one of the fastest-growing sources for New Zealand. 

The decision from General Motors on Monday comes as the company pulls out of other right-hand-drive markets, including the United Kingdom, India, and South Africa. According to MotorAuthority, General Motors' presence Japan is down to only making "hundreds" of right-hand drive vehicles.

"Over recent years, as the industry underwent significant change globally and locally, we implemented a number of alternative strategies to try to sustain and improve the business, together with the local team," General Motors said after making its decision about Holden on Monday.

"This decision is based on global priorities and does not reflect the hard work, talent and professionalism of the Holden team."