Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The 2021 vehicle sales turnaround has begun. Figures released on Thursday show that local sales of new cars and commercial vehicles in March were 31.8% higher than for the corresponding month of 2020.

Of course, there’s a good reason for this. March 2020 was the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown started just before month-end but several vehicle manufacturers had already suspended production by then.

Sales in the first two months of 2021 were significantly behind those of 2020. By the end of February, they lagged 2020 by 13.8%. By the end of March, however, aggregate sales were only 0.9% in arrears. As the year progresses, 2021 sales will pull well ahead.

Full-year improvement forecasts range from 12% to 20%. The Automotive Business Council, formerly the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA, said on Thursday that the motor industry sold 44,217 new cars and commercial vehicles in March, up from 33,546 a year earlier.

Car sales improved 23.4%, from 22,143 to 27,330. For the first quarter of 2021, the aggregate market for all vehicles was 116,225 – fractionally down on last year’s 117,255.

The industry exported 40,026 vehicles in March — 38.6% more than the 28,889 of March 2020. At 90,354, aggregate exports for the first quarter were 16.8% ahead of 2020’s 77,335.

On Thursday, Business Council CEO Mikel Mabasa cautioned against unrealistic market expectations. He said: “Structural constraints in the economy, coupled with growing debt and ongoing electricity capacity limitations do not bode well for a quick recovery.”

He added that some car models would be in short supply because of a global shortage of semi-conductors, an integral part of modern vehicles.

furlongerd@businesslive.co.za

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