The Rise of Tesla in New Zealand

The first Tesla in New Zealand was registered in 2012. It was a red Tesla Roadster, one of only a few thousand produced. More years would pass before the Model S began to appear on NZ roads (one used import in late 2014 followed by new registrations in 2015).

Tesla Motors launched its distributorship in NZ in February 2017, followed by the installation of superchargers in Hamilton, serving the Waikato Expressway. The first Tesla store opened in Auckland in June 2018.

Registrations of the Model S peaked in 2017 – the same year the Model X made its appearance.

Tesla owners were early adopters, paying more than $100,000 for the full electric vehicles. The Model X numbers eclipsed those of the Model S in 2018.

At this stage the EV market in NZ was really only about used import Nissan Leafs, and steady numbers of the BMW i3 (in its varying forms).

Game Changer: The Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 started production overseas in mid-2017, but it was a long wait for the right-hand drive versions to appear in NZ. In September 2019 351 brand new Model 3’s were delivered to customers.

This was enough to cause a noticeable bump in EV market share that month. While overall numbers in 2020 were less than that of 2019, 2021 was a record year.

In April 2021 the price of the base Model 3 went from $74,900 to $69,900, then to $66,900 in July. Combined with the Clean Car Rebate, the aggressive discounting of the Model 3 has no doubt contributed to it becoming the biggest selling new full electric vehicle in NZ by a wide margin.

September 2021 saw the registration of a massive 1,066 new Tesla Model 3’s – completely eclipsing the release figures of two years previous. In that month it was the second highest new registration numbers of any vehicle (with Ford Ranger at #1). When looking at new & used combined, the Model 3 was the third biggest (behind Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Outlander).

Tesla Models Charted

Charts include both NZ New and Used Import registrations. Look for the Model Y to appear here over the next few years.

Will Tesla Retain Its Dominance?

A browse at the top 10 EVs shows the rapid rise of the MG ZS EV (spurred on by the SUV format, lower pricing, and the rebate). The next most popular make of EV is Hyundai, and the new IONIQ 5 may just push numbers up enough to challenge Tesla as the most dominant EV brand in the marketplace.

However, the Tesla Model Y is just around the corner, and the timing and price point of the new SUV may allow Tesla to stay in first place.

By James Foster
Updated as at December 31, 2021