Despite the downturn in bakkie sales, the Toyota Hilux remains SA’s best-selling new vehicle. Picture: Supplied
Despite the downturn in bakkie sales, the Toyota Hilux remains SA’s best-selling new vehicle. Picture: Supplied

New-vehicle sales in SA delivered mixed results in April, with cars reporting a 3.9% increase compared to April 2018, but light commercials dropping a substantial 8.1%.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), there were 24,989 new cars sold last month compared to the 24,054 units in the same month last year, with the car rental industry contributing to 8% of the April 2019 figure.

Sales of bakkies and light commercials at 9,810 units recorded a notable decline from the 10,676 units sold during April 2018, however.

Sales in the low-volume medium and heavy truck segments performed well and at 577 units and 1,418 units respectively, reflected gains of 19.7% (medium commercials) and 7.8% (heavy commercials).

On aggregate the total domestic sales at 36,794 units was 266 units (0.7%) up on the 36,528 vehicles sold in April last year

April sales glimmered as a beacon of hope for the South African new-car industry as the overall 0.7% rise was the first increase in sales this year and brings a slowly declining trend in sales to a halt, says WesBank’s executive head of Motor Ghana Msibi.

“Household budgets are continuing to remain under pressure and consecutive months of petrol price increases will no doubt begin to take their toll,” said Msibi.

Total market sales year to date are down 3.7% compared to 2018, passenger cars accounting for a 6.2% decline, while LCVs are up 0.7%.

In spite of dwindling light-commercial sales, Toyota’s evergreen Hilux bakkie remained SA’s top-selling vehicle in April, with the rival Ford Ranger in third place behind the VW Polo Vivo.

SA’s top 20 sellers — April 2019

Toyota Hilux — 2,411
VW Polo Vivo — 2,350
Ford Ranger — 1,635
Toyota Quantum — 1,236
VW Polo — 1,165
Isuzu D-Max — 1,158
Toyota Rav4 — 839
Toyota Fortuner — 816
Ford EcoSport — 742
Toyota Etios — 719
Hyundai Grand i10 — 718
Nissan NP200 — 715
Renault Kwid — 472
Datsun Go — 453
Renault Clio — 452
VW Tiguan — 442
Toyota Corolla Quest — 436
Ford Figo — 426
Renault Sandero — 422
Kia Picanto — 402

* List excludes Mercedes-Benz and Haval, which do not report their detailed sales figures.

Audi looks to fuel cells again

Like the rest of the motor industry Audi is going big into electric cars, but it’s having a re-look at fuel-cell technology.

According to an Autocar report, Audi has serious concerns about sourcing battery materials for electric cars responsibly and meeting customer demands for range and charging. This has inspired the German brand to revive its hydrogen fuel-cell development, with the report saying that Audi will resume development under its h-tron programme.

Audi h-tron quattro fuel cell concept car at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show.
Audi h-tron quattro fuel cell concept car at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show.
Image: Supplied

Fuel cell vehicles have been overshadowed by battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), with Toyota, Honda and Hyundai among the few to have fuel cell cars either in development or on sale.

But Audi Chairman Bram Schot says the brand will introduce a new fuel cell prototype car later this year, with a limited-run fuel cell vehicle to be offered via a lease programme by 2021.

Audi is partnering with Hyundai on fuel cells which will allow the technology to be used in production cars quicker and cheaper.

Audi has previously displayed two fuel cell concept cars: the A7 h-tron and the h-tron crossover concept, but neither went into production as Audi joined the rest of the industry rush to BEVs.

Audi’s concern about sourcing battery materials is rooted in the fact that increased production of BEVs may lead to a shortage of metal components used to make their lithium-ion batteries.Leading electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla has warned a global shortage of battery minerals could be on the horizon due to underinvestment in the mining sector.

Hydrogen fuel cells could be more sustainable and fuel cell refueling times are similar to petrol- or diesel-powered cars, though setting up a hydrogen infrastructure remains a big obstacle.

Porsche Speedster is on its way

Porsche is putting its 911 Speedster into series production as a special limited-edition model.

Only 1,948 units of the open-top two-seater will be built and that number is a nod to the first Porsche 356 Speedster launched in 1948.

A handful of 911 Speedster models are coming to SA priced at R5,16m apiece.
A handful of 911 Speedster models are coming to SA priced at R5,16m apiece. 
Image: Supplied

A handful of these Speedsters will come to SA later this year priced at R5,161,000 including a three-year/100,000km Driveplan.

The body is based on the 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet but adds a double-bubble cover behind the seats to give it the Speedster vibe. The 911 Speedster employs a weight-saving fabric roof that can be put in place manually, and lightweight carbon fibre replaces steel in several body panels.

The engine is a variation of the emotive 4.0l naturally aspirated boxer engine used in the 911 R and GT3. Revving to a hearty 9,000rpm, it shunts out 375kW and 470Nm for a claimed 0-100km/h figure of four seconds and a 310km/h top speed.

The only transmission option is Porsche's six-speed manual GT sports gearbox with an auto-blip function on downshifts, which will make the purists excited.

To aid the handling in this purist driver’s car, the Speedster features rear-axle steering which turns the rear wheels, and carbon-ceramic brakes ensure fade-free stopping power.