car sales continue to slide

NOVEMBER car sales were more than 4000 units lower than the same month last year, according to the latest auto industry figures.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa reported yesterday that new vehicle sales in November had declined to 40019 units, 12,1percent down from last year.

This was especially distressing according to Naamsa as November last year was an already low base "characterised by a sharp decline as a result of the onset of the global economic downturn".

"Encouragingly, industry export sales have registered further improvement during November 2009, recording the best monthly performance for the year," the association said yesterday.

Export market leaders Volkswagen SA and BMWSA have both recently spent billions on increasing capacity at their plants to boost exports. The industry exported 22969 vehicles in November, an improvement of 2018 vehicles compared with October. VWSA expects to export 55000 cars next year, mainly the new Polo, which has not yet been released in South Africa.

Mike Glendinning, VWSA sales and marketing director, said: "New passenger car sales in November continued a more positive trend.

"However, the car rental industry purchases in November were largely responsible for this growth.

"Sales in the consumer retail segment remain muted. The new passenger car sales cycle does, however, appear to have bottomed out."

Brand Pretorius, chief executive of McCarthy Limited, said both the private and fleet segments remained at levels of about 50percent below the sales peak seen in 2006.

He agreed that improvements in sales were largely due to the rental industry.

"We were hoping for clear signs of a recovery in the retail demand for new vehicles, but unfortunately no evidence of an upturn materialised in November," Pretorius said.

"It is likely that December is going to be another slow month, with the result that the total vehicle market could end up almost 30percent down on the previous year," he said.