22 aoû 18

New Zealand, similar, but different

What is there to tell about New Zealand? Obviously the country has a strong identity and lives outside of the shadow of its big neighbour, but in all fairness, when it comes to the corporate fleet ecosystem, there are many similarities in terms of services and suppliers. So let’s just list up some of the quirks that New Zealand has to offer.

High vehicle ownership

The country’s population of 4.8 million people own over 4 million vehicles, divided approximately in

  • 3,000,000 light* petrol vehicles
  • 650,000 diesel powered light vehicles (vans, light trucks and 4WDs)
  • 145,000 diesel heavy vehicles (trucks and buses)
  • 110,000 motor bikes
  • 30,000 mopeds

* “Light” vehicles mean: cars, 4WDs, vans, utes and light trucks

A first conclusion is the predominance of petrol fuel vehicles. So, where does NZ stand on alternative fuel? Again, approximate figures (MoT 2017).

  • 18,000 hybrid vehicles (~0.5% of the fleet) NB This is an underestimate
  • 2,900 CNG powered light vehicles
  • 5,000 LPG powered light vehicles
  • 2,800 electric cars
  • 75 electric trolley buses
  • Less than a handful electric trucks

Popular brands

NZ has no car manufacturers; new vehicle registrations are dominated by the Japanese manufacturers, Holden and Hyundai.












Age matters

120K vehicles are produced before 1980 and 780K vehicles are produced before 1996. The south island has an older average vehicle age than the north island. A big topic in NZ is the average age of the vehicle park, which, at over 14 years, is currently amongst the highest in Western(ized) countries. For comparison, the average vehicle age in Australia is around 10 years, in Japan 8 years and in the US 12. The NZ authorities recognize that vehicle age impacts a number of factors, such as fuel consumption, CO2 and particle emission and the safety of the vehicle.

Old doesn’t mean dirty

Even if we can all agree that older vehicles consume more fuel and emit more than younger vehicles, the reality in NZ is slightly more nuanced. A first nuance comes from the fact that the older NZ vehicles have smaller engines and are lighter than the new ones (around 2.0 litre for the older vehicles against +2.5 litre engines for newer cars). In addition, it turns out that owners of older vehicles drive less than those who own new vehicles. Therefore, the reality in NZ is that accelerated scrappage of older vehicles would not have the desired effect of a drastic decrease of emission.

The New Zealanders own more vehicles than ever before, but they are driving less. The average annual mileage of the light fleet was 13,250km in 2001; since 2014, this has decreased to about 11,500km.

Vehicle age and safety

The number of fatalities has decreased by over 50% over the last 25 years, from 747 in 1985 to 319 in 2015. The number of accidents in the same period however, even if fluctuating over time (with a 12,000 peak in 2007), has remained stable since the early 2000s at about 9000 per year. Taken into account an growing fleet, it means that the accident/vehicle ratio has gone down, but nowhere near the decrease of fatalities. Has the age of vehicles an impact on the crash rate?

We can agree that new vehicles are safer than old vehicles. This is where a second nuance comes in. Scrappage of old vehicles would not necessarily imply that the average vehicle safety would increase: New Zealanders buy a lot of second hand vehicles (half of the imported vehicles are used) which are not necessarily dramatically safer than the vehicles they replace.


All variants of EV’s are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand, although it can’t hardly be called a landslide victory for electric. In the pure electric category, Hyundai is leading with its Ioniq (206 units versus 546 in total), BMW’s I3 is the only available car and therefore leader in the “electric with extender” category (35 units), Mitsubishi Outlander leads the Plug-In Petrol Hybrid class (255 units versus 387 in total), 1717 petrol hybrids were sold, of which 634 Toyota Camry, and 7 Audi Q7 in the category Diesel hybrid, a category with in total… 7 units.

Road taxation

Anyone who drives a car in NZ will contribute to the cost of using the country’s roads. Most of these contributions will be levied through a taxation applied on petrol fuel, compressed natural gas and liquified natural gas. All of the revenues go to the National Land Transport Fund, are collected by the Transport Agency and reinforced by the New Zealand Police. Diesel drivers however, and the same goes for +3.5 tonne vehicles, need to pay RUC, or Road User Charges. Some exceptions apply, such as tractors and forklift, but if these exceptions don’t apply, the user will have to obtain a RUC licence.

The calculation of the RUC license takes into account a number of factors. The weight of the vehicle, for instance, and the distance travelled with the vehicle. Distance recorders are necessary for vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes. Based on a combination of these (and some other) factors, the user will pay “licenses” for each 1000km of driving.


New Zealand does not have any CO2 or emission taxation. Instead, the country uses an “Emission Trading System”. This means that the NZ Government sells permits for a quantity of pollutants to be released in the air, which is where the name “Carbon Credits” comes from. The credits are expressed in units of 1 tonne of CO2 emission and cost the polluter NZD 25. The ETS covers forestry, energy, industry and waste, but not agriculture, although it represents 46% of the total emissions. New Zealand has been criticised for the absence of a true emission reducing legislation. The impact of ETS on fuel consumption has been close to nil, the car per capita ratio in the country remains high and electric vehicles are not stimulated from a behavioural point of view (the conversation is about TCO, not about “Green”).

In addition, the NZ population is growing steadily, which means more people will buy more (very often imported second hand) cars and the country will need more transportation. It’s therefore most likely that NZ’s total pollution will rise. The Government predicts that CO2 emissions will increase with 40% by 2030.

Authored by: Yves Helven