Strong growth in the number of new vehicles sold in 2012 has provided a welcome surprise for motor traders with the market now back to levels last seen before the global financial crisis.
Sales of new vehicles last year exceeded 100,000 for just the third time since 1989 and increased by 19 per cent from 2011.
"2012 ended up being considerably stronger than anyone had predicted. Forecast growth predictions were easily exceeded," Motor Trade Association spokesman Ian Stronach said.
Of the 100,795 new cars and commercial vehicles sold, 21 per cent were Toyotas, with its Corolla remaining the most popular model after 5324 were bought in 2012.
New car sales were at their highest level for five years, while sales of commercial vehicles enjoyed their best year for four years.
"While a positive result, the market is really only returning to where it was pre-GFC (global financial crisis)," Mr Stronach said.
He says despite the growth, New Zealand trails well behind Australia and the United States in the rate of new vehicle sales.
The import car market was down three per cent, but ahead of projections after more stringent exhaust emission standards were imposed on the 78,311 passenger vehicles brought into the country over the last year.
Key vehicle sales facts for 2012:
New cars sold: 76,871 (up 20 per cent on 2011)
Top car brands: Toyota (14,992), Holden (7,922), Ford (7,653)
Top models: Toyota Corolla (5324), Suzuki Swift (3321), Holden Captiva (2506)
New commercial vehicles sold: 23,924 (up 16 per cent on 2011)
Imported cars: 78,311 (down three per cent).