The VW Polo Vivo was SA’s best-selling passenger car. Picture: SUPPLIED
The VW Polo Vivo was SA’s best-selling passenger car. Picture: SUPPLIED

New-vehicle sales in SA ended on a positive note in December 2019, registering gains over the same month in 2018, but overall sales for the year were stuck in low gear: a disappointing 2.8% down.

Statistics released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) revealed that 41,698 cars, bakkies and trucks were sold in December — a 4.2% rise over the corresponding month in 2018.

Sales figures for the whole of 2019 continued the slide experienced since 2013, with the exception of 2017 in which there was a marginal increase. New-vehicle sales declined by 15,601 units (2.8%) from 552,227 units in 2018 to 536,626 in 2019, which Naamsa attributed to a subdued macroeconomic environment, pressure on consumers’ disposable income and fragile business and consumer confidence.

Lowering the interest rate by 25 basis points in July 2019 didn’t prevent passenger car sales in 2019 declining by 2.7%, medium commercials by 4%, and heavy trucks and buses by 1.2%. The only segment to grow was medium commercials, up 10.5%, which Naamsa said could be due to truck customers buying down into smaller vehicles due to challenging economic conditions.

A general buying-down trend continued in 2019, with sales of entry-level vehicles, small utility vehicles and crossovers performing relatively well.

The Haval H2 was one of the country's top 30 sellers, marking a turnaround for a buying public usually wary of Chinese vehicles. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Haval H2 was one of the country's top 30 sellers, marking a turnaround for a buying public usually wary of Chinese vehicles. Picture: SUPPLIED

The decline in new passenger car and light commercial vehicle sales occurred despite strong sales by the car-rental sector during the year and an improvement in new-vehicle affordability in real terms.

There was good news on the export front. New vehicles shipped overseas registered another annual record, with 386,863 units — an improvement of 35,724 (10.2%) compared with 2018. Passenger cars in particular registered a substantial gain of 17.7%.

Risks and opportunities for SA remain in 2020, Naamsa said. Downside risks include Eskom’s continuing load-shedding crisis, with ripple effects on the economy, Moody’s pending decision on the country's investment rating, as well as a continuing weak domestic economic growth outlook.

On the positive side, the country’s inflation has declined to well within the target range of 3%-6%, and the industry’s exceptional export performance is set to continue.

In 2019 the Toyota Hilux remained SA’s best-selling vehicle, by an enormous margin, with 40,934 units leaving showrooms. Its closest bakkie rival was the Ford Ranger.

Volkswagen enjoyed a similar dominance in passenger-car sales with its Polo Vivo and new-generation Polo the top two sellers. 

Other popular passenger cars were the Renault Kwid, Toyota Quest and Etios, the Hyundai Grand i10 and i20, the Ford Figo and the Kia Picanto, reflecting consumers’ appetite for affordable cars.

The top-selling SUV was the evergreen Toyota Fortuner, ahead of the Ford EcoSport and Toyota Rav4. The Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5 were also good performers in this highly competitive category, as was the Haval H2, which indicates a notable shift for traditionally China-wary SA car consumers.


SA’S TOP-30 SELLING VEHICLES — 2019

1 Toyota Hilux — 40,934

2 VW Polo Vivo — 29,618

3 Ford Ranger — 25,041

4 VW Polo — 21,557

5 Nissan NP200 — 17,955

6 Isuzu D-Max — 15,231

7 Renault Kwid — 11,848

8 Toyota Fortuner — 11,644

9 Toyota Quantum — 10,536

10 Toyota Corolla Quest — 10,043

11 Ford EcoSport — 9,802

12 Toyota Etios — 9,445

13 Hyundai Grand i10 — 8,520

14 Ford Figo — 7,984

15 Nissan NP300 — 7,909

16 Toyota Hi-Ace — 7,197

17 Hyundai i20 — 6,993

18 Toyota Rav4 — 6,928

19 Kia Picanto — 6,924

20 VW Tiguan — 6,479

21 Datsun Go — 6,330

22 Suzuki Swift — 6,242

24 Renault Sandero — 6,077

24 Toyota Yaris — 6,033

25 VW Polo sedan — 5,418

26 Toyota Avanza — 5,363

27 Haval H2 — 4,539

28 Toyota Corolla — 4,492

29 Hyundai Tucson — 4,215

30 Mazda CX-5 — 4,205