South Africa's exports of cars and vehicle components rose by almost a fifth to a record R207.5 billion last year, partly driven by shipments of catalytic converters.
The increase means the automotive industry lifted its contribution to the country's gross domestic product to 4.3% from 4.1%, according to a report by the Automotive Industry Export Council.
It suggests the sector, which accounts for 12.5% of South Africa's export value, is recovering from damage caused by coronavirus restrictions that shuttered borders and disrupted supply chains.
The value of vehicle exports rose 14% to R138 billion in 2021 and shipments of catalytic converters increased more than a third to a record R35 billion, the report showed. The emissions-control parts made up more than half of all automotive component shipments.
Despite the improvements, the growth in the domestic industry has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, Norman Lamprecht, the council's executive manager, said in a statement.
Ongoing Covid-19 supply-chain disruptions, shortages of stock and rising energy and transport costs mean the sector that employs more than 78 000 workers will continue its stop-start recovery this year, he said.
Domestic sales of new vehicles in April were also hit by the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal that disrupted port operations and rail and road freight. While total sales grew 4.3% from a year earlier, it fell by 26.5% from the previous month.