The number of new vehicles sold in New Zealand in 2012 was 19% higher than the previous year.
Motor Industry Association chief executive Perry Kerr says the figures are surprising in an apparently depressed economy.
A total of 100,794 new vehicles were sold, making it only the third time since 1990 the 100,000 mark has been topped.
Mr Kerr says the average price per car was around $40,000.
Toyotas, Fords and Holdens were the three most popular types of car sold.
The top-selling passenger car was the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Suzuki Swift and the Holden Captiva.
Work utes were the most sold vehicle for the commercial sector, with the Toyota Hilux, the Ford Ranger and the Nissan Navara heading the list.
Meanwhile in Australia, 1.1 million new cars were purchased in 2012, a 10.3% increase from 2011.
AAP reports that sales of four wheel drives were up 25.3% and commercial vehicle sales rose 12.2%.
Figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries showed Toyota was the biggest selling brand, followed by Holden and Mazda.