An automotive worker assembles a Ford Silverton bakkie at a vehicle manufacturing plant. Picture: SUPPLIED
An automotive worker assembles a Ford Silverton bakkie at a vehicle manufacturing plant. Picture: SUPPLIED

Double-cab bakkies and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are taking over the world, Toyota SA CEO Andrew Kirby says.

The total South African new-vehicle market has shrunk 15% since 2014 but these two categories have seen sales go through the roof.

Double cabs have increased their market share by 60% and SUVs  33% over the period. They now account for 10% and 20%, respectively of the total market and are the only light-vehicle segments to improve their performance over the last four years. Kirby told a motor industry seminar in Midrand Tuesday that even small cars, which most people assume are benefiting most from soaring vehicle ownership costs, have lost ground slightly since 2014.

Andrew Kirby. Picture: SUPPLIED
Andrew Kirby. Picture: SUPPLIED

Other car segments have not been so lucky. The category occupied by the likes of Toyota Corolla and VW Golf has shed 33% of its market share while premium car brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have lost 40%.

Kirby said that as double cabs and SUVs — which include the Renault Duster, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Fortuner, BMW X3 and Kia Sportage — had become more sophisticated, fleet and private buyers had been attracted by their versatility. Automatic cars were also enjoying a boom, growing their market share from 25% to 37%.

Kirby, like other analysts, predicted the new-vehicle market would shrink again in 2019, for the fifth time in six years. The first half of 2019 the year would be particularly difficult, in the lead-up to national elections.

He was also concerned that this year’s three-yearly wage negotiations between vehicle manufacturers and labour could undermine the market. Previous negotiations have often led to prolonged industrial action and consequent supply shortages.

Kirby, who is president of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA, said that though most of 2019’s discussions would happen after the election, an “agitated” union environment would lead to “tough discussions”. Toyota SA itself was hit by strike action late last year.

He said he was encouraged by the direction of long-term motor industry policy outlined at the end of 2018 by trade and industry minister Rob Davies.

The Automotive Masterplan, which will run from 2021 to 2035, aims to double production and employment, increase local sourcing of parts by at least 50%, and drastically increase black participation in the industry.

Kirby said that though companies would have to work harder to retain current incentive levels, “the masterplan gives us clear goals and clarity on how to get there”.