Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Local sales of General Motors cars collapsed last month, following the US-owned company’s decision to disinvest from SA at the end of 2017. In April, before the news broke, General Motors SA sold 730 cars. Following the May 18 announcement of its intended departure, June sales fell to 427. Chevrolet cars, which will disappear from the local market after December, fared worst, tumbling from 407 to 164.

The little Chevrolet Utility pick-up, on the other hand, increased sales. One of only two small bakkies left in the market, with the Nissan NP200, it has a loyal customer base and is expected to remain popular until it is also discontinued in December.

The Opel car brand, which will remain after being sold by General Motors, also lost sales last month but will be reassured by the limited scale of the decline: from 323 to 263. From 2018 it will be distributed in SA by the Williams Hunt dealer network, part of the Unitrans transport and logistics group.

Overall, the local new-vehicle market showed resilience in June. Figures released yesterday by the department of trade and industry showed that aggregate sales of all vehicles grew 0.9% from a year earlier, from 44,951 to 45,369. Car sales dropped 2.2%, from 29, 269 to 28,639, but an 8% rise in bakkie demand, plus an improved performance by medium trucks, more than compensated.

As a result, sales of all new vehicles in the first half of 2017 totalled 269 006 — down 1.3% from last year’s 272, 568. Cars were down 2.3%, from 180,638 to 176,557.

Despite June’s improved performance, talk of recovery is a long way off. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said there was still too much political and economic uncertainty for the market to strengthen appreciably and the best the industry could hope for was a full-year market on a par with 2016.

WesBank analyst Rudolf Mahoney said: “There is a lot of underlying weakness in the market.”

He added that, for the first time in June, the average value of new cars financed by WesBank in a calendar month exceeded R300,000, and that of used cars topped R200,000.

Exports also improved in June: the 31,631 total was a 1.4% improvement on the 31,202 of a year earlier. For the first six months of 2017, however, shipments were down 7.4%, from 167,697 to 155,237. True to its message since the start of the year, Naamsa was still confident yesterday that the gap would be closed and the year would yield an all-time export record.

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