Improvement in vehicle sales slows in October

The downward trajectory in the new vehicle market continued in October 2020 but at a slower pace than previous months.


Total domestic vehicle sales declined in October 2020 by 25.4% or 13 216 units to 38 752 units from the 51 968 vehicles sold in October last year.

The entire motor industry was able to resume full operation in June 2020 under the current COVID-19 country lockdown restrictions and the rate of decline in year-on-year sales has improved from 30.7% in June 2020 to 25.4% in October 2020.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) said on Monday that dealer sales accounted for an estimated 83.8% or 32 478 units of the total domestic sales reported in October 2020.

Naamsa CEO Mikel Mabasa said new vehicle sales in South Africa are slowly picking up but are not at 2019 levels yet. Mabasa said the country’s economy remains fragile and while the economy would slowly regain momentum, “tough months were still ahead before business and consumer confidence was rebuilt”.

Sales of new passenger cars declined by 25.4% to 26 793 units in October 2020 from the 35 899 new cars sold in October last year, with the car rental industry accounting for an encouraging 12.8% of car sales in the month.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses declined in October 2020 by 27.8% year-on-year to 9 644 units, medium commercial vehicles by 21.2% to 662 units and heavy truck and buses by 11.5% to 1 653 units.

Mabasa said the year to date sales figures “tells a dismal story”, now reflecting a decline of 32.5% or 146 261 units compared to the corresponding period last year.

Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance head of strategy and business analytics Henry Botha said it is “quite disappointing” the market is down 25% year-on-year when the lockdown has been lifted for such a long time.

“It seems that the new vehicle market isn’t recovering as I would have thought by October. It does help that the rental market is coming back slightly. For about six months there were almost zero sales in rental and fleet, and they are back up to 3 600 units for October, so that is helping,” he said.

Botha said his analysis shows that passenger vehicle sales at dealerships “are only down 7.3% so that shows that consumers are shopping”.

He said the big difference between overall passenger sales and passenger sales at dealerships is the level of sales to the rental industry.

“Rental sales of around 3 000 units are still way below the 10 000 units that an October month would have as the rental and fleet companies stock up for December [holiday season],” he said.

Botha said light commercial vehicle sales declined by 30%, with sales of Toyota Hilux models dropping by more than 3 000 units. He attributed this to the release by Toyota of a new Hilux facelift model, which involved retooling in the plant and a possible lag in supplies.

Botha said the reduction in the year-on-year rate of decline in total sales in recent months is encouraging.

“If Hilux sales were at the level they are supposed to be at around 4 000 units, then this month would have ended up at about 42 000 units, which would have been about 5 000 units up on September,” he said.

However, Botha had bad news about the length of time it will take for the new vehicle market to stabilise following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Botha said the new vehicle market took 18 months to stabilise after the global financial crisis in 2009 but believed it will take longer than this to stabilise after the COVID-19 lockdown.

“If the consumer market is 7% down, that might be the new stable level and then the rental market will come back and the commercial market will come back,” he said.

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