Electric vehicle sales slump in New Zealand over past quarter - motor industry data

New data from the motor industry show it's been a quiet three months for the electric vehicle (EV) market in New Zealand.

Analysts are blaming political manipulation and the wider economic slowdown for the downturn in sales.

Once upon a time, one in five car sales nationwide was a fully electric vehicle, but now that number's closer to one-in-20.

"Is this decline showing some kind of indication of people caring less about the environment? I don't think so," said EV commentator Richard Edwards.

Instead, he's putting it down to the introduction of road user charges (RUCs) for electric and hybrid vehicles on April 1, plus the removal of the clean car discount at the end of 2023.

But Edwards told Newshub it's not a cause for concern.

"If you'd taken out the Government manipulation in the market over the last two years, EV sales would be higher now than they are at the moment, but we'd probably have a smaller fleet," he said.

And now, there are signs the slowdown in sales is widespread - with Tesla posting its first annual drop in sales since the beginning of the pandemic, and the EV maker's shares losing a third of their value this year.

But Climate Minister Simon Watts is adamant sales in Aotearoa will pick back up without the need for Government intervention.

In a statement, Watts told Newshub: "As a Coalition Government we are committed to meeting the 2050 net zero target, and the emissions budgets."

Meanwhile, Russel Norman, executive director of Greenpeace Aotearoa, said a continued slump in sales could have long-term impacts.

"It's going to make it harder to reach the carbon reduction targets with fewer EVs on the road and more internal combustion engines," Norman said.

A decline in car sales generally, is also being attributed to the country's wider economic situation.

As a result, EV sales are expected to remain stagnant for some time. 

"Now the market's shifting more to people who aren't necessarily first adopters, who are looking at it based on the numbers - and they may take a little bit more convincing," said Edwards.