Insights from AutoTrader Industry Report

The latest bi-annual AutoTrader Car Industry Report, titled #Rebound, has revealed some interesting findings pertaining to both the used and the new-car markets in South Africa. The report covers the period from July to December 2020.

George Mienie

According to George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, the company approached the survey with some trepidation. “We knew that the used car market was buoyant. This is confirmed by our year-on-year growth. Visits in December 2020 versus December 2019 increased by 55% while visits in January 2021 versus January 2020 increased by 42%. Hence, we knew that there was an appetite in the market to buy used cars. But 2020 was a year that disrupted the nation in a way no one could ever have predicted.

“Lockdown was the catalyst that is driving and – in many ways – forcing an accelerated change in the automotive industry. What would have taken years suddenly started happening sooner. As a result of COVID-19 pressures and uncertainty, we have seen a compression of the innovation curve in the South African automotive industry. It is as if we are being fast-forwarded. New automotive technologies, business models and thinking should begin to emerge in 2021,” he commented.

The latest report reveals that, while 2020 was turbulent, it wasn’t without its highs. For instance, during the last year, a total of 270 million online searches were conducted, a record high, representing growth of 54.1% year-on-year (YoY). BMW was once again the most searched-for brand, accounting for 15.4% of all car searches from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020. Mercedes-Benz was second with 14.8%, closely followed by Volkswagen with 14.3% of the searches.

With 19.3 million views, BMW also romped home first in the Consumer Advert View (CAV) department, which is one of the leading indicators of demand. This was over nine million more views than the same period a year ago. In total, there were over 130 million car views, representing an incredible 70% increase YoY.

It probably comes as no surprise that the most searched for model – with 9.3 million searches – was the Toyota Hilux, at an average price of R369 979 and with average mileage of 91 272 km. It was followed by the Volkswagen Golf (the GTI being the most searched-for car variant) and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The BMW 3 Series, which came in 2nd in the previous AutoTrader Bi-Annual Car Industry Report, dropped to 4th place.

According to the report used-car prices rose by 8.5% to an average of R312 794 in the second half of 2020. Prices are usually lower in the second half of the calendar year and the unusual phenomenon can only be put down to the effects of lockdown. The average mileage for used cars listed was 70 429 km, representing a 4.7% decrease. Interestingly, used vehicle stock declined by 10% YoY.

Consumers clearly felt the crunch of economic uncertainty as the under-R200 000 price range was the most searched price point.

The survey also reveals insight into car ownership in South Africa. The country has a national car parc of approximately 11.5 million vehicles, of which about 7.5 million are passenger cars. Also, the number of vehicles owned per family is surprisingly high. A substantial 36.19% have two cars, 13.33% have three and 7.94% have four. In contrast, 10.37% have no car and 25.93% have one.

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