BUCKLE UP, TURBULENCE AHEAD
LIKE so many individuals who are active in the local automotive industry, I was rather surprised to see the extremely positive Naamsa new-vehicle sales figures for January 2013. The indicators of economic health and prospects for South Africa’s immediate future have not exactly been rosy in the past few months. Nevertheless, the car industry kicked off the year on a high note, with one of the oft-quoted barometers of economic wellbeing – sales of heavy commercial vehicles – proving very positive. Why would this be the case?
There is a theory (I subscribe to this school of thought) that the car-sales boom we’re experiencing is indicative of pre-emptive buying on the part of companies and consumers. Interest rates are still low. The exchange rate has worsened, which could result in significant price increases in the not-too-distant future. The fuel price is rising again, putting further pressure on inflation. And then there’s the uncertain political climate to consider. Perhaps it’s simply a case of, “Buy now, because it may not be feasible later…”
But what should you buy? With more than 1 600 different derivatives on sale in South Africa, and a number of potentially high-volume newcomers scheduled for release during the first quarter, the timing of our annual Top 12 Best Buys, in association with Vehicle Finance from FNB, could not be better. We’ve gone all-out to make this year’s iteration as useful as possible, even delaying voting in some segments right up to the last moment in order to test more derivatives of the important new models. As a result, you’ll see this issue includes exclusive first tests of the new Volkswagen Golf (see page 64), as well as the updated Ford Fiesta with its all-new 1,0-litre EcoBoost engine (see page 90). Reflecting changing market trends, we’ve adapted the Top 12 segments to remain as relevant as possible. For all the winners, flick to page 41, and then go to page 194 for Peter Palm’s Top 12 Used Best Buys if you’re looking for extra value.
Remember, unlike other award programmes, Top 12 does not exist to hand out trophies to carmakers. It is there for you and functions as a consumer tool. At the very least, the cars featured in each of the segments should be on your shortlist. If you’re going to buy now in preparation for the tougher times ahead, then buy the best.