Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

After six successive months of year-on-year growth, the motor industry is confidently forecasting that full-year, new-vehicle sales for 2017 will improve by 2% compared to 2016.

Figures from the Department of Trade and Industry show that sales totaled 49,754 last month — a 7.2% improvement on the November 2016 total of 46,397. Car sales accelerated by 16.4%, from 28,207 to 32,821.

Commercial vehicles, though, took a battering: light commercials were down 7.4%, mediums 20.1%, and heavies by a figure thought to be close to 10%. The continued refusal by Mercedes-Benz SA, a leader in this segment, to reveal sectoral sales, makes an exact calculation impossible.

There was more misery for the motor industry’s export ambitions. Shipments of 27,178 in November were 13.7% down on a year earlier; the deficit for the first 11 months was 4.4%. Talk of an all-time record export year has been silenced.

Last month’s exports were undermined by continued supply problems at Toyota SA, whose Durban factory is still making up lost production suffered in October’s storms. Production of Volkswagen SA’s (VWSA) export-focused Polo is all but over as the company prepares to launch a new model early in 2018. As recently as September, VWSA exported 5,464 cars. In November, the number was 43.

Total domestic sales for the first 11 months of 2017 were 516,954 — 2.2% up on 2016’s 505,903. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) says growing local demand is down to "the continuation of attractive sales incentives, sharply lower new-vehicle price inflation, stable interest rates, and ongoing above-average demand by car-rental companies".

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