Car sales tumble

Madoda Milazi

Madoda Milazi

The current depressed financial climate continued to take its toll on the car industry as sales for October registered substantial falls in all segments of the new vehicle market.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), the sharp drop in sales growth was despite the fact that October was traditionally a strong month.

"This could be attributed to higher-than-average new vehicle price increases in recent months and particularly the extra ordinary loss of confidence in global financial markets in recent weeks which had also impacted negatively on business and consumer confidence in South Africa," Naamsa said.

Total new vehicle sales dropped by 30,1percent to 38143 units from the 54569 vehicles sold in October last year.

Sales for the first 10 months of this year were 19,0percent lower than the corresponding period last year.

Out of the total 38143 vehicles sold, 77percent or 29370 units were sold to car dealers while 10,4percent were sold to the car rental industry, 7,4percent to government and 5,2percent to private companies.

October new passenger car sales dropped 33,3percent to 23077 units from 34633 sold in October last year, and were down 34percent year on year.

New light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses also fell 23percent to 12384 units from 16164 units in October last year.

Medium commercials and truck and bus sales plummeted by 45,3percent and 18,2percent respectively.

Naamsa said new vehicle exports were the only consolation, recording a 62,8percent growth to 28041 vehicles exported in October compared to 17227 vehicles in the corresponding period last year.

Export sales reflected an impressive 71,4percent year-on-year improvement.

Malcolm Gauld, vice president of sales and marketing for General Motors South Africa, said: "The October new vehicle market was severely depressed even by overall 2008 standards. The effects of the global financial turmoil have taken the fragile local vehicle market and put a tighter stranglehold on it."

Mike Glendinning, sales and marketing director of Volkswagen South Africa said the sharp decline in demand for new passenger cars in October reflected an ongoing deterioration in economic circumstances in general.