From optimism to gloom, then back to optimism. If anyone is looking for an example of corporate bipolar disorder, they need look no further than sentiment around the 2017 new-vehicle market. In January, sales registered their first year-on-year increase for 14 months. It was the first time since 2015 that the market had improved on the corresponding month of the year before. February and March also showed promise. Not everyone was so excited. Some analysts warned that economic indicators suggested tough times ahead. Their caution was quickly justified — but not for the reasons they thought. SA’s credit-rating demotion to junk status following President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle at the end of March sent sales into freefall. They crashed by more than 13% in April. But then the market began to turn and, since June, there has been a gentle upswing — encouraging enough for forecasters to talk of 2%-3% full-year sales growth. A 25-basis-point-cut in interest rates, with talk of anoth...

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