The South African motor industry’s trade deficit grew more than 30% in 2017, courtesy of a strengthening rand and the loss of two months’ production at one of the country’s top vehicle exporters. The 2018 Automotive Export Manual, published on Friday, shows that the deficit rose to R43.5bn in 2017, from R32.9bn in 2016. Vehicle exports, expected to set a new annual volume record, eventually fell just short after Volkswagen (VW) SA halted production of its Polo car in the last two months of the year to prepare for the introduction of a new model in 2018. The industry exported 338,093 vehicles, mainly cars and bakkies, in 2017. That was 2% down on the record of 344,821 set in 2016. Norman Lamprecht, executive manager of the Automotive Industry Export Council, which publishes the manual, said he expected the number to reach 366,000 in 2018. Despite a two-month manufacturing shutdown at another exporter, BMW SA, to switch production from the 3-Series car to the X3 sports utility vehicle...

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