Although automakers and dealers are gently dancing a little jig of delight at the upturn in new vehicle sales numbers for the short month of February, darkened skies over Europe are casting a long shadow.
According to Naamsa | The Automotive Business Council the current hostilities between Russia and the Ukraine poses another potential global supply chain challenge for the auto industry because of Europe’s strategic significance to the global automotive ecosystem.
The timing of the confrontation between Russia – on the one hand, and Ukraine, the European Union, the United States and all their allies in the West, on the other, comes at the time when the global auto industry is trying to recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19; disruptions and global shortages of semi-conductors and many other supply chain-related challenges experienced by the industry since the beginning of 2020.
“We don’t need another global economic disruption. We urgently urge all global leaders to work through the United Nations structures to find sustainable political solutions to the conflict in the region so that the people of Ukraine can avert human suffering, destruction to property and the demolition of some of their important economic infrastructure needed to sustain progress and development”, says Naamsa CEO, Mikel Mabasa.
Mabasa said the new vehicle market continued to gain traction and aggregate domestic new vehicle sales in February were 44 229 units, an increase of 6 860 units, or 18,4%, compared to February 2021. Export sales, encouragingly, also recorded an increase of 3 590 units, or 12,3%, to 32,867 units in February 2022 compared to the 29 277 vehicles exported in February 2021.
Overall, an estimated 37 553 units, or 84,9%, represented dealer sales, an estimated 10,1% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 3,8% sales to government, and 1,2% to industry corporate fleets.
The February 2022 new passenger car market at 29 563 units had registered a sound increase of 5 419 cars, or a gain of 22,4%, compared to February 2021. The car rental industry supported the new passenger car market during the month and accounted for 13,3% of car sales in February 2022.
Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses at 12 290 units during February 2022 showed an increase of 1 058 units, or a gain of 9,4%.
Sales for medium and heavy truck segments of the industry reflected a positive performance during the month and at 572 units and 1 804 units, respectively, showed an increase of 40 units, or 7,5% in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses an increase of 343 vehicles, or a gain of 23,5%.
“The healthy performance in the new vehicle market reflected an improvement in domestic demand conditions, although year-on-year comparisons remain difficult to interpret because of differing pandemic circumstances during the corresponding period 2021.
“The growth-positive National Budget passed during the month provided some good news for business and consumers with a cut in corporate income tax, accommodating adjustments in personal income tax brackets and no hike in the fuel or Road Accident Fund levy, for the first time since 1990. However, South African motorists’ relief was short-lived as fuel prices hit record highs iwith petrol to cost more than R21 a litre for the first time ever,” says Mabasa.
The vehicle emissions tax rate on passenger cars will also increase from R120 to R132/gCO2/km while the tax on double cabs will increase from R160 to R176/gCO2/km from April 1.
“The ripple effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hold in negative consequences for South Africa for the Rand, oil prices, food prices, financial markets, as well as potential earlier and bigger interest rate hikes by the South African Reserve Bank to curb inflation” adds Mabasa.
“Although the ABSA Purchasing Managers’ Index [PMI] for February 2022 reflected that purchasing managers remained upbeat about expected business conditions in six months’ time, the renewed disruptions in the operations of global supply chains amid an escalation of the Ukrainian conflict will not only have cost implications for the domestic economy but could also negatively impact sentiment.
“In view of the positive performance in vehicle exports during the month, prospects for 2022 remain optimistic in line with favourable economic and market conditions abroad as well as on the back of positive domestic developments such as further new locally manufactured model introductions in 2022. Vehicle production, and consequently vehicle exports, however, will remain subject to global tensions as well as the ongoing world-wide semi-conductor shortage, which is hampering production and sales across the globe.
Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) recorded its largest market share (30,4%) to date and posted its second highest ever monthly sales total, retailing 13 458 units in February.
Selling 3 503 units, Hilux took overall honours in February as SA and Toyota’s bestselling vehicle, while the Hiace Ses’fikile continued its sales prowess as the country’s favourite people mover with 1 438 units sold.
“February may be the shortest month of the year, but new vehicle sales in South Africa boomed,” says Mark Dommisse, Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA).
“It’s encouraging sales have been up for the first two months of the year compared to January and February 2021, despite the supply issues affecting most franchises. What is important is the dealer channel was responsible for 84,9% of these sales, which points to growing consumer confidence despite the conflict in Ukraine, the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, and a continuing global shortage of semiconductors which affects the number of new vehicles being produced.
“An interesting statistic came out in the listing of sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and traditional hybrid vehicles, which when combined, rose by an impressive 535% on a year-to-date basis from only 34 in the first two months of 2021 to 216 units in the same months this year.
“This can be partly attributed to the strong take up of the new Toyota Corolla Cross, which was South Africa’s best-selling car in February and where there is encouragingly high demand for the hybrid variant of this model. Of course, the introduction of many new electric models from premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes will only add to this tally going forward.”
“Although year-on-year growth during February looked inspiring, passenger car sales were actually marginally (463 units) down on January sales,” says Lebogang Gaoaketse, Head of Marketing and Communication at WesBank. “Light Commercial Vehicle sales during February, however, were 2 666 units or 27,7% ahead of January, likely as a result of erratic supply continuing to hamper the market.”
“The market has further headwinds to face as fuel prices will exceed R21 per litre inland during March and are destined to rise further amidst tensions in Ukraine. Industry could also face additional complications over and above microchips as supply and manufacture is potentially disrupted in the region and Russia.
“The situation could amplify the divide between consumer and business demand and the market’s already hampered ability to supply,” says Gaoaketse.
“The new vehicle market is already 18.8% up to 85,559 units during the first two months of the year compared to the year-to-date performance of 2021, outrunning many forecasts already made for the market this year.
“This bodes well for the continued recovery of the new vehicle market,” concludes Gaoaketse.