The Toyota Hilux continued to top SA's sales charts, selling 4,252 units in March. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Toyota Hilux continued to top SA's sales charts, selling 4,252 units in March. Picture: SUPPLIED

New-vehicle sales in SA declined for the third consecutive month, with the 47,718 units representing a 3.1% decrease compared to March 2018.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said the weakening rand and overall shadow of possible ratings-agency downgrades didn’t help March sales as consumer and business confidence continued to come under pressure.

“Household budgets also continue to take strain as a result, directly impacting demand for new vehicles as motorists continue to hold on to their vehicles for longer,” said WesBank executive head of motor Ghana Msibi.

This week’s fuel price hike of R1.28 a litre for petrol and 77c a litre for diesel is expected to contribute to this burden, as will the continued impact and threat of load-shedding.

“At least interest rates remained unchanged, providing some small form of relief for consumers,” said Msibi.

Of the 47,718 vehicles sold in March, 41,235 units or 86.4% represented dealer sales, 6.6% were to vehicle rental companies, 4.3% to the government and 2.7% to industry corporate fleets.

“The new-vehicle market continues to perform within our expectations of a downward trend, as consumers find themselves increasingly under pressure,” said Mark Dommisse, chair of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (Nada), which represents franchised car and commercial vehicle retailers in SA.

“Many dealer principals within the Nada network have commented on noticeably slower foot traffic on showroom floors. This is clearly a sign of economic pressures on household budgets,” he said.

Passenger car sales took the biggest knock in March, declining 5.6% to 30,348 cars compared to March 2018.

However, light commercial vehicle (LCV) sales continued to buoy the market with figures up 1.9% to 14,994 units. Medium and heavy commercial vehicles also showed growth of 6.2% and 5.3% respectively, albeit in small volumes of 775 and 474 units. Extra heavies and buses declined 3.6% and 12.9% respectively.

WesBank data shows a slowly shifting trend away from fixed interest rate deals towards interest rate linked deals, though linked deals remain the majority.

Msibi remains optimistic for the market’s performance in the second half. “While sobering, the market picture is not all doom and gloom, nor unexpected. We forecast first-half sales to be slow with a better-performing second half,” said Msibi.

However, Naamsa said the new-car market would continue to be affected by the depressed current macroeconomic environment and enduring pressure on household disposable income.

“Higher food, fuel and electricity prices, a weaker exchange rate against all major currencies and load-shedding continued to dampen already low levels of business and consumer confidence further during March 2019, weighing on demand,” said Naamsa.

SA’s Top 20 Bestselling New Vehicles – March 2019

1. Toyota Hilux — 4,252

2. VW Polo Vivo — 2,498

3. Ford Ranger — 2,376

4. Nissan NP200 — 2,144

5. Isuzu D-Max — 1,445

6. VW Polo — 1,383

7. Toyota Quantum — 1,310

8. Renault Kwid — 1,081

9. Toyota Corolla — 1,081

10. Hyundai Grand i10 — 1,030

11. Toyota Fortuner — 954

12. Ford Ecosport — 868

13. Nissan NP300 — 839

14. Toyota Etios — 755

15. Ford Figo — 722

16. Kia Picanto — 630

17. Renault Sandero — 627

18. Datsun Go — 605

19. Hyundai i20 — 476

20. Toyota Corolla Quest — 462

• List excludes Mercedes-Benz, which does not reveal its detailed sales figures