picture: 123RF/WELCOMIA
picture: 123RF/WELCOMIA

New vehicle sales have suffered a miserable start to 2019.

Figures released on  Friday by the department of trade and industry show that in January, the local market shrank 7.4% from a year earlier.

Sales of all vehicles totaled 42,374, compared to 45,772 in January 2018.

The car market was even weaker — down 10.8% to 29,040. 

The overall picture would have been even worse but for a strong showing by medium and heavy trucks — up 24.6% and 6.6%, respectively.

Sales of light commercial sales, mainly bakkies, were almost identical to 2018's, rising two units from 11,679 to 11,681. Exports, which climbed to record levels in 2018, are off to a flying start in 2019. January’s figure of 18,289 was 29.4% up on a year earlier.

WesBank CEO Chris de Kock predicted last week that the full-year 2019 new-vehicle market would shrink 1% from 2018.

He, like most analysts, expects the market to be particularly slow in the early part of 2019 until the outcome of the national election is clear.

However, few will have expected the scale of last month’s deficit.

Gert Swanepoel, MD of truckmaker UD Trucks, expected sales of medium and heavy trucks in 2019 to match those of 2018.

“We also think the first half will be slow but the market will accelerate after that and finish very close to last year,” he said.