'vehicle market may have bottomed out'

ALL sectors in the retail motor industry showed modest gains in July over the previous month, helped by increased sales to vehicle fleet owners, car rental companies and purchases by the government.

But a real recovery in volumes can only be expected towards the end of the year or early next year.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA reported total vehicle sales, including those from Associated Motor Holdings, at 34503, a modest 3,48percent higher than June, although still 25,9percent down on the same month last year.

Light commercials recorded volumes of 10711, down 23percent on last year's figure, but 7,5percent up on June. Medium and heavy commercials at 1471 posted a gain of 4,3percent on June, but a 45,9percent decline on last July. Significantly, bus sales at 263 enjoyed a gain of 89,2percent.

McCarthy chief executive Brand Pretorius said: "Based on these latest trends it appears as if the downward trend in new vehicle sales has been arrested. Unfortunately, demand from private individuals remains subdued."

Jacques Brent of Ford said: "The market is beginning to show tangible signs of stability at or near the bottom of this difficult cycle."

Managing executive of Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance Marcel de Klerk said the market appeared to have bottomed out but a real recovery can only be expected towards the end of the first quarter of next year.

Volkswagen topped the car sales list with the Polo/Classic range and the CitiGolf.