Car mania hits SA showrooms

2012-11-09 15:12

It’s boom time for car manufacturers in SA. Janine-Lee Gordon does some number crunching and realises that South Africans are shopping like it’s a crazy monthly sale

In 1994 there were only 17 car brands you could choose from. Today there are 65 different makes available in South Africa.

That number alone is a sign that the local automotive industry has seen exponential growth over time, especially during the past four years.

It’s no surprise that our cries about rising fuel hikes and e-tolls fall on deaf ears when thousands of cars are being sold monthly. A staggering 1 650 cars were sold daily during September alone.

The recent transport sector strikes caused some disruption at various manufacturing plants, affecting vehicle production and exports last month.

Even then the sales figures stood at 57 845 for the month.

While passenger vehicles are popular choices, according to monthly sale reports by the National Automobile Association of SA, the premium segment is the only one under pressure.

However, it doesn’t mean sales are dormant.

During October, 107 Porsches found new homes, while seven motorists took ownership of their brand-new Maserati models.

The sports utility vehicle market is still on a steady growth path too. The sales figures for September are the highest since the 2006 boom year.

Government buys close to 1 000 cars for officials every month.

Last year this time, it had already bought 7 309 cars. September saw the figures drop to 2% less – the number stood at 7 172 cars.

The rate of rental companies buying cars is down by 6% compared with last year’s 35 717.

And while all this is going on, one of the German car maker groups has recently announced the acquisition of another four brands under its umbrella, giving the Volkswagen (VW) Group 12 banners.

At the VW Beetle launch in Cape Town recently, VWSA managing director David Powells revealed that the group now owns Ducati Motorcycles, Porsche, Scania and MAN trucks.

The other brands include VW and their commercial vehicles, Audi, SEAT, Scoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini.

Powells says the manufacturing sector makes up for 15% of the total gross domestic product and provides 13.3% of all jobs provided in the country.

“In a time when people are supposed to be struggling financially, the automotive world market share has grown by 8.7% while the VW Group’s share has jumped 10.2%,” says Powells.

He adds that passenger car sales for 2011 were a pleasant number of 554 785.

This year, industry experts predict total sales to be 606 870.

This is thanks to the average 26 000 passenger cars being sold at dealerships monthly across the country.

Although these numbers are amazing, this is also where it gets interesting.

The amount of cars built in and sold in South Africa contributes to only less than 1% of the global market.
When you compare this with China’s production and sales figures, which run into the millions, we still have a long way to go.

China is considerably bigger than South Africa, so they account for 23% of the global pie.

Powells says this is because of domestic infrastructure and logistic inefficiencies.

“The economies of scale and depth of manufacturing are not internationally competitive. It is still so expensive to build cars here, hence there is such a strong import penetration,” he says.

“To see a sustainable automotive industry development, government needs to assist in the long-term securement of the industry.”

And 2013 already looks promising just going on the planned export figures of 361 300.

This is thanks to the Ford Ranger being built at the Silverton plant in Pretoria for a full run instead of just several months like this year.

There’s also the BMW plant in the same area building a quarter of the global units of the 3-Series, while Mercedes-Benz has also expanded their volumes.

The automotive production development programme will also play a big role as of next year.

The new year will bring brand-new cars and face-lifted models to push up sales again.

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