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Kiwis split on clean car policy - but big market shift possible

8 Aug 21

Credit: Autofile
Kiwis split on clean car policy - but big market shift possible
Split decision - but 406,000 more interested in buying clean vehicles

The Government’s clean car scheme, which took effect on 1 July, has split support from Kiwis. Regardless, enough drivers seem motivated by the cash rebates on offer to significantly change New Zealand’s new and used vehicle markets. 

Horizon Research has released a large, independent survey on the scheme conducted after it was announced in June. It reveals 35% of Kiwis are in support, with 40% opposed.

However, overall, the policy creates a potential market of more than 406,000 adults (including around 30% of current EV or Hybrid owners) who say it will make them more likely to buy lower emission new and used electric and hybrid vehicles.

Nearly 1,500 survey participants were asked: ‘Overall, do you support or oppose the policy to provide cash rebates for new and used low emission vehicles, and charge a fee for buying high emissions new and used vehicles?’

Results show 14.7% ‘strongly support’; 19.7% ‘support’; 20.2% ‘neither support nor oppose’; 15.7% ‘oppose’; 24.1% ‘strongly oppose’; and 5.7% were ‘not really sure’.

Horizon says support rises as incomes and as formal education levels rise. There is, however, no difference by gender nor is support affected by the age of vehicle people currently own..

Support for the scheme is the strongest among 18–24-year-olds and 25–34-year-olds.

Support is also higher than average among those who don’t own a vehicle; current hatchback owners; current owners of EVs, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles; and those living in Auckland and Canterbury.

Support is lowest among those who have a ute, an SUV or a van as their main vehicle; those whose main vehicle has diesel as a fuel; and those living in Northland, Waikato/Coromandel, Taranaki, Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough, West Coast and Otago.

Influence on buying behaviour

In July clean car sales rose substantially compared with June this year.  760 pure electric vehicles, 431 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and 1,163 hybrids vehicles sold last month, the highest combined total on record. This compares to a total of just 521 in June.

Horizon says the future decisions of just over 10% of adults, a nett 406,200 people, could change to cleaner vehicles as a result of the scheme - revealing a significant potential market shift. (The timeframe over which this shift could happen was not measured)..

Horizon reports 12% of adults say the scheme will make them more likely to buy a new electric car or hybrid vehicle, while 7% say it will make them less likely to do so. 12% say the scheme will make them more likely to buy a used electric car or hybrid vehicle, while 6% say it will make them less likely to do so.

As some of respondents were more likely to buy either a new or a used electric or hybrid vehicle, the nett figures are 20% more likely and 10% less likely.

The potential market shift happens despite a majority of respondents saying it will make no difference to their vehicle buying behaviour, they can’t afford to change, or they won’t be changing. 

No difference for many

Overall, 18% say it will make no difference to the vehicle they will buy – a view particularly strong among current SUV, ute and van owners.

The survey also indicates that of all occupations, it’s farmers who are the most adamant the scheme will make no difference to their vehicle buying decisions. 

The expense of going green remains a hotly debated topic, with Horizon’s survey revealing cost is a potential driver for people’s opposition to the scheme.

Overall, even with the rebates, a nett 43% say they still won’t be able to afford a new or used electric or hybrid vehicle. This drops as personal income rises.

Nearly a third of Kiwis won’t be rushing off to do anything, with 29% overall saying they won’t be buying or selling any vehicles.

Horizon believes this is the largest and most comprehensive published survey of Kiwis views and likely behaviours since the Government’s June 13 clean car scheme announcement.

Horizon Research Principal, Graeme Colman, says it indicates vehicle sales companies can tap into a large potential market for an ever-growing number of lower-emission vehicles.


Horizon’s survey was conducted online between 15 and 25 June 2021. Its1,452 respondents aged 18+, represent the New Zealand adult population at the most recent census. It is weighted by age, gender, personal income, employment status and highest education. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error overall is +/- 2.6%.

The survey was commissioned by Horizon as one of its regular public-interest projects.

Further information

Graeme Colman, Principal, Horizon Research, email, telephone +64 21 848 576.

Detailed reporting and tables results on the market changes are now available to Horizon clients.