SA vehicle sales | Here's why Volkswagen and other local automakers' export numbers are exploding

<i> Image: AFP / Philipp von Ditfurth </i>
<i> Image: AFP / Philipp von Ditfurth </i>
Philipp von Ditfurth

As the Rand weakens, South African vehicle exports are surging.

The local automotive industry is one of the very few segments showing any growth in an economy which has stalled. October’s automotive exports tallied some astounding numbers, showing the confidence that overseas markets have in ordering vehicles from South African factories.

VW leading from the front

VW reinforced its position as South Africa’s lead automotive exporter last month. The German company’s Uitenhage facility built and exported 12 182 vehicles. That represents a notable increase over VW’s September vehicle exports, which totalled 9760. VW’s local operations are running at near peak capacity.

READ | SA vehicle sales | Top 10 best-sellers in October

Another Eastern Cape automotive facility was responsible for South Africa’s second strongest dataset of export vehicles in October. Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant produced 9477 vehicles, a small increase over September’s volumes of 8389.

                                                                Image: BMW

The export business is now nearly five times larger than Mercedes-Benz’s local new vehicle sales. South Africa’s third most successful vehicle exporter for last month was Ford, with 8136 vehicles, up from 6957 in September. In fourth place was BMW, who built 7104 BMW X3s at its Rosslyn facility.

Finding the balance

That number was also a tidy increase from September, when 5881 locally built X3s were shipped offshore. Exports continue to be an area where Toyota has made sacrifices to accommodate the enormous domestic demand for its products.

In October, Toyota only ranked as the fifth largest South African vehicle exported with 3475 vehicles.

Toyota must balance the reality of being by far the largest domestic vehicle retailer, and an exporter. It has decided to prioritise its local customers, despite the profit opportunity to boost exports when the Rand depreciates.

                                                      Image: AFP / Philipp von Ditfurth

As a total assembly, export and domestic retail automotive business, VW ranked first overall in October, with 21 709 vehicles. Toyota is second, with 17 169 vehicles, although most of those are transacted to local buyers.

Some of the more curious export vehicle numbers in October, were Honda (36), Mitsubishi (24), Volvo (21) and Chinese brand, Haval (8). Most of these low volume exports are not locally produced vehicles, but rather distribution into other African markets, via South African importers.

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