March new-vehicle sales dipped by 0.6%, to 50 157 units, compared with the same month last year.
But it’s not all bad news, says WesBank marketing and communications head Lebogang Gaoaketse.
“Both March 2022 and 2023 have been the only sales months to breach the 50 000-unit level since October 2019.”
March volumes also significantly outpaced February sales, at 45 198 units, indicating that growth remains possible, despite the headwinds of the continued energy crisis, rising interest rates, and the pressures of inflation on household budgets, he adds.
National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) national director Gary McCraw agrees, noting that NADA remains confident the market will still grow in 2023, compared with last year.
“The fact that total sales exceeded the 50 000-unit barrier was a positive sign, showing that there is still ongoing, pent-up demand for new vehicles.”
McCraw does, however, regard the most recent hike in interest rates as “a real setback for sales”.
“This impending rise had possibly been factored in by some buyers who then chose to stay out of the new-vehicle market for a time.”
The rates increase may also boost the continuing buying-down trend, which sees consumers opt to buy cheaper vehicles.
“Looking ahead, we believe that as many local companies have entered a new financial year, there may be a greater appetite for them to start buying [vehicles] again,” notes McCraw.
“Ongoing loadshedding and changes in company policies are also seeing more people return to work at their offices instead of at home, which means they are driving daily, which could also be a spur for new-car sales.
“We are hopeful that people intending to replace their cars this year will still do so, as there are a host of new models arriving and new-vehicle stock levels are much improved. This could lead to more aggressive trading,” says McCraw.
WesBank also expects market growth this year, off the back of improved new-vehicle supply and the fact that the replacement cycle has been delayed over the past few years.
The South African new-passenger-car market reached 31 631 units in March – a 6.4% decline on the same month last year.
Sales of new bakkies, vans and minibuses increased by 11.1%, to 15 529 units.
March medium-truck sales grew by 10.1%, reaching 870 units, while heavy-truck and bus sales jumped by 11.1%, to 2 127 units.
For the year-to-date, total new-vehicle sales are up 2.4%, compared with the same quarter last year, at 139 437 units.
March exports increased by 3.1%, to 34 134 units.
Year-to-date vehicle exports, at 84 774 units, are, however, 4.2% below the first quarter of 2022.
Naamsa | The Automotive Business Council says it remains optimistic, and believes that export sales will grow by 8.3% this year.