Rise of the SUV sees hatchback become 'threatened species', motor industry warns

The once-beloved hatchback car could become a thing of the past as the rise of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) start dominating the marketplace, the motor industry warns.

The hatchback also became a desired vehicle for thieves, with AMI data released last year showing the Japanese hatchback Mazda Demio was the most stolen vehicle across New Zealand, followed by the Mazda Atenza (also known as Mazda6) and Nissan Tiida in third.

Motor Industry Association chief executive David Crawford told The Project on Monday hatchbacks are starting to become a "threatened species" because SUVs make more money on the lot, so sellers and manufacturers are following the profit. 

"It's an inevitable trend for two reasons. One, since the Global Financial Crisis, we've seen the rise and the rise and the rise of the SUV and correspondingly, the fall of passenger vehicles, generally speaking," Crawford told The Project. 

"The first victim was station wagons, which became scarce and now the hatchback is a threatened species. The second reason is small cars generally are getting harder to justify in a low-carbon environment because the cost of making them low-emission vehicles is comparatively the same as a medium to larger vehicles." 

But it's not all bad news for the hatchback, with Crawford saying they'll become a popular second-hand vehicle and still be a go-to car for Kiwis to learn to drive in. 

"I think a lot of people learn to drive in second-hand cars rather than brand new cars and they'll continue to buy small cars," he said. 

"But there are a number of small SUVs that are coming on the market that are easy to get in and out of and are very practical to use and people kind of like them, which is why they're so popular. So rather than being in a little hatchback or a little sedan, you're going to see more people in SUVs."

This is backed up by Trade Me Motors sales director Jayme Fuller who said hatchbacks are the most popular vehicle on the Trade Me marketplace currently. 

"Hatchbacks are the most popular car body type listed on Trade Me and have been for years. We have over 16,000 of them online right now," Fuller told The Project. 

"We don't expect the hatchback to drop or grow in popularity, it's always been a Kiwi favourite. I would tell you that last year we had over 132,000 searches online for hatchbacks, and that's actually a six percent increase over the prior year. So we'd expect it to continue to be a popular Kiwi car." 

Watch the full interview with David Crawford in the video above.

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