New vehicle sales continue their free-fall

The return of Stage 6 load-shedding and supply chain disruptions at Transnet were blamed for new vehicle sales declining for the fourth consecutive month in November 2023.

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All new vehicle market segments declined during the month, with the overall vehicle market declining by 9.8% to a total of 45 075 unit sales from the 49 986 vehicle sales recorded in November 2022.

Mikel Mabasa, the CEO of automotive business council, naamsa, said the new vehicle market was 1.3% below the pre-pandemic level of 2019 at the beginning of 2023, and year-to-date to November it was 0.6% ahead of the same period in 2022.

Mabasa said this meant that depending on sales achieved in December 2023, the new vehicle market could miss out on returning to pre-COVID-19 pandemic sales levels after three years.

He said the current logistical challenges at the country’s ports and across the entire freight rail network in the country was impacting negatively on the vehicle production landscape and on new vehicle sales in South Africa, with the current challenges soon to have a devastating domino impact on the entire auto value chain.

Mabasa added that while supply chains were gradually stabilising globally and the semiconductor shortages were anticipated to ease, South Africa’s erratic logistical challenges would become the single biggest risk for the sector should the country not urgently address many of the leadership and systemic structural challenges experienced by Transnet.

He stressed that the automotive sector's productivity relied heavily on infrastructure investment, sustainable energy supply and the revitalisation of SA's ports and rail and road networks.

Sales of new passenger cars slumped by 12.1% to 29 384 units last month from the 33 436 units sold in November 2022.

The dealer market accounted for 82.4% or 24 203 units of total sales, with car rental sales accounting for 12.5% or 3 672 units of total sales.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses dropped by 3.9% to 12 941 units in November 2023 from the 13 467 units sold in the corresponding month in 2022.

Sales of medium commercial vehicles declined year-on-year by 13.5% to 785 units and heavy truck and bus sales by 10.7% to 1 965 units last month.

WesBank Head of Marketing and Communication, Lebo Gaoaketse, said the new vehicle market recorded its biggest loss in November since the beginning of 2021 when the market was beginning its slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Gaoaketse said there was some consolation in the fact that sales last month were in the median range of 2023 volumes and also only 385 units short of the sales registered in October this year.

But Gaoaketse said year-to-date growth in new vehicle sales has softened substantially to 0.8%, confirming the economic challenges that face motorists and the motor industry.

Gaoaketse questioned whether the new vehicle market could show any growth at all in 2024 with only sales in the month of December to contribute to annual sales volumes.

“But relative to the headwinds that have faced the economy and market this year, volumes hovering towards the mid-40 000 sales mark continue to provide opportunity to consumers, dealers and the brands themselves,” he said.

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