Importers Hyundai, Mazda and Nissan are looking like the big winners in the latest survey of Australians’ vehicle-buying intentions.

Pollster Roy Morgan Research says its latest sampling finds a record 2.36 million Australians plan to buy a new car within the next four years.

“This healthy long-term intention result outstrips the previous peak of 2.32 million in early 2012,” the polling firm says in a statement.

Nearer-term, close to 741,000 Australians expect to buy a new car in the next 12 months, equal to the record set in March 2012.

“The high Australian dollar and intensive competition in the Australian car industry has resulted in a record number of Australians intending to buy a new car in the next four years – with importers Hyundai, Mazda and Nissan showing the greatest increase,” Norman Morris, industry communications director-Roy Morgan Research, says in a statement.

“In terms of which vehicle types are driving the recent growth, preference for SUVs continues to grow, with almost 80% of SUV intenders (considering) a medium- or large- sized SUV.”

The uptick in vehicle-buying intentions comes despite a 2.9-point drop in Roy Morgan Research’s business confidence index to 120.0 in April, the second straight monthly drop after peaking at 123.8 in February.

The decline is due in large part to a fall in the number of businesses reporting they were better off than last year – to 24% from 27% – and a 3-point drop to 55% in businesses seeing the next 12 months as a good time to invest.