|...and still they come.|
New Zealand is a relatively small car market. Manufacturing has never been undertaken for that reason, although there was assembly from kits (CKD). The inefficiency of that system lead to the government removing protection and cars were imported instead. By 1998, all assembly plants were closed.
In the late 1980's restrictions on used cars was eased. NZ cars are right hand drive as they are in Japan. Also the Japanese have a policy of removing older but still very good cars off the road to help the local car industry. Instead of them all being scrapped, better ones were bought and imported. That led to a tsunami of used car flooding the country.
Below is a chart showing how that is the case, data from MIA, NZ. The late 1980's it started and by 1990, more used than new were being sold. It nearly reached 70%! The 2014 figure is for nine months.
So what effects has it had in NZ?
With not enough new cars to supply the used demand, that kept used prices high. They fell quickly with the deluge of second hand cars coming in.
New car prices probably dropped a bit but not by much as new cars are still quite expensive here compared to say Australia. Occasionally very popular imports caused new car importers to realise there was a demand for such as a new car as well, so started bringing them in.
The age of the fleet grew with so many used cars arriving, leading the government to legislate to favour newer used cars imports.
New car buyers dictate what cars are available used. Sometimes their tastes are different to used buyers. So models that would never sell new sometimes proved popular as second hand imports. For example, the Japanese have domestic only models. Some are small MPV models that come in to NZ and have met a need the new car market wasn't providing for.
The gains of cheaper imports hasn't always been passed on to consumers as big importers made too much on them I feel. The price of new cars often seem to dictate what they sold for rather than the price to bring them in plus a modest margin. No one understands how to overcharge like a New Zealander, I'm sorry to say. Still, that is the way everything is here, so it is all relative. I think it is better now.
There are other aspects to used imports as well, arguments for and against from those with have a financial reason for an opinion. As one who doesn't have a vested interest one way or another, I feel they have been good for most New Zealanders. It has made good, reliable cars available at a better price on the used market.