Four hundred and forty thousand. That, roughly, is how many new passenger cars were sold in South Africa this year. That’s a lot of cars, especially given the current state of our economy.
Naturally, manufacturers have all done their sums and know what they are likely to sell, which indicates an automotive market in rude health here at the tip of Africa.
It’s a surprising total given that this is not exactly a place where owning and driving a car is easy. Sometimes, it feels like our roads have more potholes than actual asphalt, the price of petrol continues to climb, we are being strong-armed into paying tolls and, let’s face it, with the ever-increasing number of freight trucks, lawless taxi behaviour and inebriated drivers, our roads aren’t exactly the safest to be. Plus, of course, a car is a very expensive purchase.
Yet we, the public, still buy truckloads of new cars. Why is that? How does South Africa support a market that will see 90 new models launched in 2015 (see page 16)? We’ve asked many of people this question and we’d like to tell you there’s a common, rational economic thread. No. Of the plethora of theories offered, only one unquantifiable answer seems to resonate. Simply put, South Africans love cars.
There are many reasons why, of course – they may evoke precious memories, are crucial status symbols, or simply embody the freedom and pleasure that personal mobility represents – but the fact remains that we have an (often irrational) emotional connection with our cars.
And that’s good enough for me.