Growing export demand, aided by slowing vehicle imports, is working wonders for the SA motor industry’s trade balance. But uncertainty in major foreign markets, particularly across Africa, means the local industry will have to work harder than ever to maintain the improved momentum. The industry’s 2016 trade deficit of R32.9bn was the smallest since 2010. If one includes only vehicles and components from the government-administered automotive production and development programme (APDP), the industry is actually in credit, to the tune of R23.2bn.That’s a recurring theme for most of SA’s major automotive trading partners: imports significantly exceed exports. One of the exceptions is the US, SA’s second biggest partner. In 2016, SA exported R22.6bn and imported R11.5bn. That balance may not exist much longer. One of the main northbound products is the BMW 3-Series car, which will not be built in SA after 2018. Instead, the local subsidiary of the German car maker will build the X3 spo...

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