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, ...

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