The BMW plant in Rosslyn. Picture: MASI LOSI
The BMW plant in Rosslyn. Picture: MASI LOSI

New-car sales plunged deeper into the red in February as low business and consumer confidence, high fuel prices, a weak economy, and political uncertainty ahead of the May elections kept buyers away.

Despite optimistic noises from some companies early in the month that the market showed signs of rebounding from January’s depressing showing, when sales fell 10.8% from a year earlier, figures released on Friday showed that last month’s sales were 13.3% lower than February 2018 — down from 31,139 to 27,000.

As a result, combined sales for the first two months of the year, at 56,015, were 12.1% down on 2018’s 63,691.

Sales of vans, bakkies and trucks fared better. Light, medium and extra-heavy commercial vehicles all improved in January, even if heavy trucks took a slight knock.

The overall result was a 6.5% drop in February sales of all new vehicles, from 46,267 to 43,251. Compared to the first two months of 2018, the market was 7% weaker — 85,606 units compared to 92,039.

As a result, some analysts are already starting to lower their sights for the full-year SA market. “The forecast 1% drop for 2019 is looking very optimistic,” said one analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Local vehicle manufacturers’ saving grace last month, once again, was exports. They were 22.5% higher than February 2018, rising from 27,529 to 33,731. For the first two months combined, they were 24.8% stronger, up from 41,658 to 51,981.