End Urban SUVs


New Zealand,

we have a big car problem

It’s making our city streets more polluted, more congested, more dangerous, and it is destroying our climate goals.

Large utes and SUVs are big money makers for manufacturers. They have much higher profit margins than regular cars, so car companies have increasingly pushed them to consumers around the world.

And guess what? It's working. 

Globally, SUV sales have risen from 20% to 46% of all car sales in the last decade. And this rise has been well-documented to be devastating to our climate targets. In our own little part of the world, the situation is much worse.

Source: Motor Vehicle Association of New Zealand Inc.

In New Zealand, SUV sales have jumped over 700% since 2009.

They now more than double the sales of regular cars. And those figures don’t even include the most popular cars in the country, like the Range Rover, the Toyota Hilux, and the Mitsubishi Triton, which are classed as Light Commercial Vehicles due to their enormous size. In that same timeframe, sales of these vehicles have more than tripled.

Car advertisements now almost universally depict huge vehicles, driving over mountain ranges and through rivers in gorgeous rural landscapes. But most SUVs and utes are driven in urban environments. 

Perhaps you have noticed this yourself. Cars with big badass names like DEFENDER, RANGE ROVER, OUTLANDER, and DISCOVERY are parked up outside cafés on Ponsonby Road and dropping kids off at kindergarten.

Spot the difference.

What are they DISCOVERING in Herne Bay? What are they DEFENDING in Fendalton, or Seatoun? What RANGES are they ROVING?

Why We must End Urban SUVs

They're killing people

Study after study after study has shown that these vehicles are significantly more deadly when involved in crashes, particularly for cyclists and pedestrians, and especially for children.

Higher point of impact makes SUV crashes more dangerous for cyclists
Effects of large vehicles on pedestrian and pedalcyclist injury severity
  • Children are eight times more likely to die when hit by an SUV compared to other types of passenger vehicles.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are now the leading killer of American children.
  • Pedestrians in general are 237% more likely to die when hit by an SUV.

Source: Journal of Safety Research (2022) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022437522000810?via%3Dihub

Car Ratings Take a Back Seat to Vehicle Type: Outcomes of SUV Versus Passenger Car Crashes
  • Vehicle type is a much more important predictor of death than safety ratings in SUV versus passenger car head-on crashes.
  • In head-on crashes between SUVs and passenger cars, the odds of death are 7.64 times higher for the driver of the passenger car.
  • If the passenger car has a higher safety rating than the SUV, the passenger car driver's odds of death are still 4.52 times higher.

    Source: HCA Healthcare Journal of Medicine (2021)  https://scholarlycommons.hcahealthcare.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1181&context=hcahealthcarejournal
    They're killing the planet

    Likewise, there are innumerable studies and publications, both here and abroad, detailing the outsized emissions of these bigger, heavier vehicles, and the effect these emissions are having on the climate crisis.

    Some fun facts from the articles linked above:

    • If SUVs were a country, they would rank as the sixth most polluting in the world.
    • SUVs and utes use 20-30% more fuel than regular cars.
    • The 330 million SUVs on the road today emit nearly 1 billion tonnes of CO each year.
    •  The increased number of SUVs in 2022 were responsible for a third of the increase in global oil demand.
    • In 2021, rising sales of SUVs and an increase in road traffic cancelled out all reductions in CO₂ emissions from electric car sales in the UK.
    New Zealand is failing in its emission reduction commitments
    And that is a massive problem

    We have made a number of commitments to reduce our emissions to net zero, including our own Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and perhaps more importantly, the binding commitment we made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Under the latter, we have committed to reducing our emissions by 50% by 2030. Currently, we are failing. Badly. Under the agreement, if we miss these targets, we could be on the hook for a bill to the tune of $24 BILLION.

    New Zealand's climate policies and action are rated HIGHLY INSUFFICIENT on carbontracker.org. That puts us in the same group as India, China, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. So much for clean and green.


    Clearly a lot more decarbonising needs to be done, and fast, if we are to avoid the devastating economic, geopolitical, social, and environmental consequences of our failure to respond appropriately to the climate crisis. So what is one of the easiest sectors to rapidly decarbonise? Transport.

    The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 requires CO2 emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2050. As transport is responsible for 47 percent of the domestic CO2 in New Zealand, this target cannot be achieved without decarbonising transport.
    - NZTA
    Our government doesn't care

    In 2021 the Clean Car Discount Scheme (aka the “Ute Tax”) was introduced, discounting low emission vehicles, and adding a fee to the big polluters.

    As mild as this scheme was (the maximum fee was $6900, while in France, the excise for a medium-large SUV is €60,000), the National Party decided to axe it at the end of 2023. As a result, EV sales plummeted and big polluting SUV and ute sales surged, sending our emissions and our cities back in the opposite direction.

    What We're Doing About it

    The End Urban SUVs campaign will have a long-term, multi-faceted strategy. This is essential if we want to make the goal in our name a reality. First, we want to start a conversation around the huge emissions and air pollution from the vehicles that are driving around our neighbourhoods. The government, with its soft-touch, hands-off approach to the decarbonisation of our transport sector, has created a handy tool to gently encourage people to make the right choice when purchasing a vehicle. At rightcar.govt.nz, you can enter the number plate of any vehicle, and it will show you its make and model, as well as a number of safety and environmental ratings. This includes its carbon emissions rating. Since the government has been kind enough to provide this data, we thought we might help them get the word out.


    One of our sticker designs

    NOW SHIPPING: Emissions Rating Bumper Stickers

    We have designed a number of bumper stickers correlating to the worst carbon emissions ratings of some of our most popular SUVs. We hope this will be informative for their owners and the public at large.

    0 Star
    0.5 Star
    1 Star
    1.5 Star
    2 Star

    If you have some of these bumper stickers in your possession, the process is simple.

    1. Next time you see a big hulking SUV or double-cab ute where it shouldn’t be, get out your phone and look up the number plate on rightcar.govt.nz

    2. Peel off the corresponding emissions rating sticker, place it somewhere visible on the bumper, and walk away.

    Congratulations! You’ve raised awareness about the terrible emissions ratings of these machines!

    Things to Avoid

    For this action we are primarily targeting newer, private, high-end vehicles, i.e. ones bought by those who have the means to make more sensible decisions. For these reasons and others, we recommend you avoid:

      • Placing the sticker where it could impede the driver's vision, including anywhere on the windscreen or lights, or over the number plate.
      • Placing the wrong star rating – accurate information is one of our strengths, so make sure to use the Rightcar tool.
      • Targeting older vehicles, trade vehicles or cars with Mobility Parking Permits.
      • Damaging the vehicle.
      • Getting caught! SUV drivers can be very protective of their machines, and we want to avoid confrontation as much as possible.

    How can i get stickers?

    The easiest way to get involved is to donate to our sticker fund. The cost for us to print each bumper sticker comes to around 75 cents for large runs, and we need to keep the donations rolling in to continue making orders and distributing stickers. Simply donate $10 or more and provide your postal address and we'll send a starter pack out your way. Alternatively, if you have access to a sticker printer, you can print the stickers yourself. Soon we will upload the set of print files on our resources page for anyone to access. If you aren't in a position to donate or print yourself, please reach out to us or one of our supporting organisations directly, and we will try to hook you up. Good luck, stay safe, and happy stickering!