Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

In a welcome but overdue boost for the South African motor industry, new-vehicle sales recorded their biggest monthly total for three years in October, while exports leapt 21% from a year earlier.

Domestic sales of new vehicles totaled 51,866 in October, a 1.7% improvement on the corresponding month of 2017 and the best monthly figure since October 2015.

However, it was not enough to drag 2018 out of the red. Aggregate sales for the first 10 months, at 464,742, are 0.5% behind the same stage of 2017.

October’s growth owed much to the commercial-vehicle sector. Car sales were actually down but light, medium and heavy commercials all boasted gains. For the year so far, car sales lag 2017 by 0.3%.

Exports reached 34,134, 21% beyond the 28,233 of October 2017. As a result, the year-to-date deficit from last year has narrowed to 0.1% — 284,145 shipments compared to 284,461.

One reason for October’s recovery is that Volkswagen SA (VW) is exporting flat out again; this time last year it was cutting production in preparation for car model changes.

Nico Vermeulen, director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa), says: “Vehicle exports remain a function of the direction of the global economy, which continues to reflect fairly robust growth despite rising protectionism and trade disputes.

“The momentum of export sales has increased over the past few months and, taking into account relatively strong order books reported by most exporters, exports should improve further and reflect strong upward momentum in 2019 and subsequent years.”