Mercedes-Benz vehicles at East London harbour awaiting export. File picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Mercedes-Benz vehicles at East London harbour awaiting export. File picture: DAILY DISPATCH

SA's new-car sales rebounded in February after a weak start to 2020. The total market for all categories of new vehicles slipped 0.7% in February from a year earlier but car sales grew 7.6%.

In January, the car market was 5.1% down year-on year and the total market was 8.1% weaker. However, that was distorted by the absence of numbers from BMW SA, which has been instructed by its German parent to withhold monthly sales in future.

Now Mercedes-Benz SA has followed suit.

From now on, both companies will report only quarterly. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), which compiles industry figures, will monthly estimates of what it thinks the companies are selling, in future.

Including those estimates, industry car sales of 29,665 in February were 7.6% ahead of the 27,567 in February 2019. Thanks mainly to a 17.7% plunge in sales of light commercial vehicles — a sector particularly sensitive to business confidence conditions — the total new-vehicle market was down 0.7%, from 43,805 to 43,485.

With BMW estimates back in the mix, exports also improved in February. At 30,832, they were 8.4% weaker than a year earlier but that was much better than January’s BMW-free 37.7% collapse.

Naamsa CEO Mike Mabasa thinks exports in 2020 could still set new records but with coronavirus fears potentially undermining economic growth in many of SA’s export markets, that may prove difficult.

furlongerd@businesslive.co.za