• SA's car buying patterns have changed.
• Searches for cars under R50 000 have increased by 300%.
• Most popular car is the VW Citi Golf.
Life in South Africa as we used to know it has changed dramatically under lockdown. So too have car buying patterns. For instance, searches for second-hand cars under R50 000 increased by almost 300% versus normal pre-lockdown levels during lockdown level 5. And the specific vehicle bought reveal some very interesting trends.
The statistics are based on an analysis of vehicles sold on AutoTrader from 1 May to 7 June 2020.
The number one choice of car in the sub-R50 000 category is the iconic Volkswagen Citi Golf. A uniquely South African success story, the Citi made its first appearance on South African roads in 1984, six years after Golf 1 was introduced in this country. Volkswagen of South Africa launched the Citi as its affordable car to compete in the entry-level segment following the introduction of a bigger and more expensive Golf II – the "Jumbo" Golf, as it became affectionately known.
"South Africans fell in love with the affordable and cheerful Citi; over the next 25 years, Volkswagen sold over 370 000 of these cars. It is interesting to see that the love affair of South Africans with the Citi endures to this day," says George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO.
"The popularity of the Citi Golf is also a testament to the power of the Volkswagen brand. It's a brand that motorists buy with confidence because they trust it," he notes.
2008 Mercedes-Benz. Image: Quickpic
Significant drop in prices
Back in November 2009, the price of the very last Citi model – the limited-edition Citi Mk1 – was R113 500. Lockdown shoppers have been paying a fraction of that: R37 691 on average (for vehicles with an average registration year of 2004 and an average mileage of 192 180 km).
Mienie says that it's also interesting to see that there are some great deals available on German luxury cars.
"Buyers obviously need to be willing to accept average mileages of around 250 000km – but, at an average price of R37 229 for a BMW 3 Series and R36 615 for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class – there are clearly some good deals to be had," he adds.
While the consumer emphasis has very much been on the sub-R50 000 sector, Mienie reveals that searches in this price category are petering off.
"We are seeing a return to pre-lockdown activity, where searches for cars R100k and less, or R200k and less, are becoming more popular again. Sub-R50 000 searches decreased by 40% while R100k searches increased by 22% and R200K searches increased by a whopping 51%," he reports.
According to Mienie, the return to R100k and R200k searches is likely due to industries opening up, people going back to work under Lockdown level 3, but also, is more than likely, an acceleration in the swing from new cars to used cars by consumers still under financial pressure.
As the country’s largest motoring marketplace, car searches and sales via AutoTrader have long been regarded as an accurate barometer of consumer buying patterns.