The 41 vehicle brands represented by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa) sold 36 794 cars, bakkies and other commercial vehicles in April, which is up by 266 units or a lowly 0.7% over the same month last year.
Split into its different segments, the market was made up of 24 989 passenger vehicles (up 3.9%), 9 810 light commercials (down 8.1% after four months of good growth), 577 medium commercial vehicles, 404 heavy trucks and 950 extra-heavy trucks. A total of 64 busses were sold.
Some industry analysts, including Naamsa, are wondering aloud if this may be the first signs of an improvement in the market. They say that the upcoming election, which should resolve some of the uncertainty in the markets, and the fact that the market usually improves in the latter part of the year after a slow start, may point to an improvement in vehicle sales. They also say that April, with its many holidays, is never a good month, so if sales improve in April it is a good sign.
On the other side of the argument, some analysts and economists say that a 266-vehicle improvement is hardly cause for celebration. They say that the economy remains under severe pressure, not least because of the recent power cuts, the rising fuel prices and the rise in electricity prices. The latter two put a lot of pressure on disposable income and on the general mood among prospective vehicle buyers, who tend to postpone a new vehicle purchase until there are sure signs of a market improvement.
Market watchers on this, more negative, side of the fence mention that ABSA’s Purchasing Manager’s Index, a good barometer of business confidence, is still in negative territory (below the 50-point mark) and that many businesses and individuals are holding back at the moment.
There are some positive signs, including an increase in sales by dealers. Market watchers look at dealer sales as a barometer of the health of private vehicle buyers and in April 86.6% of all vehicles were sold from a dealer floor. For interest, the rental market represented 6.5% of all sales and 4% of all cars were sold as single units, meaning that they were bought by the manufacturers themselves. The remaining few percent were sold to the government.
Another very positive sign is the rapid increase in vehicle exports. With Ford coming on line with its new Ranger and Everest, including the powerful new Raptor, and BMW now building the X3 at full clip to satisfy their global demand, the market almost saw the vehicle export sales passing local vehicle sales (36 794 local sales versus 33 090 export sales).
In the upper echelons of automotive sales, BMW welcomed the X7 (22 units) and 8 Series (8 units), while Bentley and Ferrari each sold 6 vehicles. Bentley doesn’t say which models they sell, but according to one analyst it is almost exclusively Bentayga SUVs, with Bentley trying to satisfy a growing waiting list of uber-rich customers. It is assumed that the Lamborghini Urus also makes up the majority of sales for Lambo, which sold 3 vehicles in April but also do not report their sales figures in detail.
Another interesting sales statistic is that Jaguar sold five electric I-Pace models, which signals a new era for electric vehicles with the first all-electric mass market SUV to be sold in Mzansi.
Porsche had its usual good month with 105 units sold, but it does not say which models make up the total. Maserati also had a good month, selling one Ghibli, one Quattroporte and five Levantes. That means that between the Bentayga, the X7, the Levante, the Urus and other uber-SUVs, it seems the market remains hungry for high-riding luxury.
All eyes are now on the national election on 8 May, with the hope that some stability returns to the vehicle market after that and that May may just look better than April.