new vehicle sales lowest in 8 years

Don Robertson

Don Robertson

New vehicle sales crashed to their worst January figure in eight years, but the luxury brand remained high on buyers' shopping lists.

The largest selling car last month was the Volkswagen Polo, followed by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Toyota Yaris.

All sectors showed significant declines on 2008 and there is the likelihood that any recovery in the market might only occur in 2010 or even the following year.

New car sales in January, which fell to 20601, were 32,3percent lower than in the same month last year and are the lowest recorded for this month in the past eight years.

Light commercials were hit even harder, tumbling to 8354 last month, or 41,1percent lower than 14191 in January 2008, while medium trucks were down by 46,2percent to 595, and heavy trucks and buses down by 35,6percent to 597.

Total new vehicle sales at 30503 were 35,3percent down, also the lowest in eight years.

The Toyota Hilux was again the top seller in the light commercial sector, followed by the Opel Corsa Utility and the Toyota Quantum, which is gaining popularity in the taxi industry.

Vehicle exports in January also suffered the brunt of world economic conditions, falling by 7,2percent to 10713 units and are expected to fall by up to 35percent from last year's 284200 by the end of the year.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA said that the industry was experiencing an "unprecedented and severe deterioration in operating conditions".

"The entire automotive value chain was presently confronted with a cash flow and viability crisis. Given the magnitude and seriousness of the global and economic crisis, it was anticipated that any recovery would only eventuate in 2010 or 2011."

Mike Glendinning, sales and marketing director at Volkswagen, laments that retail sales and production of vehicles is declining, and that household income growth has fallen sharply.