March vehicle sales pick up

Don Robertson

Don Robertson

A modest increase in vehicle sales during March compared with those in February gave the motor industry some cause to raise a modest cheer.

But the reality was that sales compared to the same month last year were again sharply lower.

And sales this month are expected to show even larger declines because of the number of public holidays and the distraction of the general elections.

The Easter holidays fell in March last year.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said that total sales in the first quarter of the year, including those of Associated Motor Holdings, reflected a decline of 34,2percent from a year ago and described the industry as being in an "increasingly desperate state".

Naamsa added that the improved inflation scenario and lower interest rates would take some time to filter through to the consumer sector, but this would only become evident in the second half of the year.

Brand Pretorius, chairperson of McCarthy Motor Holdings, said the improved sales in March compared with February, probably reflected buying ahead of April price increases.

Motor dealers also offered even more aggressive marketing strategies as they attempted to qualify for first quarter incentives offered by motor manufacturers.

A significant factor which was mentioned by a number of manufacturers was the fact that banks are taking a more relaxed attitude to credit applications submitted by would-be buyers.

Of some consolation was the fact that the decline in exports was not as severe as the domestic market, and at 17896 was 22 percent lower. The continued slowdown in the economies of South Africa's major markets such as Europe, Japan and the US would, however, result in further declines in export volumes for the rest of the year.