New vehicle sales increased by 11,1 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to the latest figures from Naamsa released on Wednesday.

To view March's new vehicle sales figures, click here.

New vehicle sales increased by 11,1 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) released on Wednesday.

Aggregate new vehicle sales for March came in at 30 243 units, an increase of 3 025 units or 11,1 per cent compared with the 27 218 units sold during the corresponding month last year. It is also up from February this year, when a total of 27 664 vehicles were sold.

However, Naamsa commented that the year-on-year comparison had to be qualified in the context of the relatively weak sales performance during March last year.

New car sales in March at 19 919 units reflected an improvement of 2 363 vehicles or 13,4 per cent compared with the 17 556 units sold during March 2002. New car sales for the first quarter of 2003 also remained 0,6 per cent ahead of the 2002 first quarter.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses, at 8 979 units during March, showed a modest improvement of 583 vehicles or 6,9 per cent, compared with the 8 396 units sales of the corresponding month last year.

Sales of vehicles in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry during March reflected a mixed performance. Medium commercials fell by 95 units or 17,3 per cent, coming in at 453 units, compared to March last year. However, sales increased by 174 units or 24,2 per cent in the heavy truck segment to 892 units.

Naamsa said that South Africa’s role as a manufacturer and supplier of vehicles and original equipment automotive components and aftermarket parts had been firmly established in recent years. However, future automotive component and vehicle exports were expected to come under pressure principally due to the rand’s strength, which had impacted on the industry’s competitiveness. Following an increase in world motor vehicle production of 4,7 per cent in 2002, latest projections suggested that global output of the automobile sector would decline by 1,5 per cent in 2003.

The momentum of South African vehicle exports had also shown a tendency to decline, since the middle of 2002, on the back of softening global markets. Latest available export figures confirm the continuation of this trend with aggregate exports for the first two months of 2003, declining by 761 units or 3,9 per cent compared with vehicle exports during the first two months of last year.

During the first two months of 2002, 19 422 vehicles were exported, which dropped to 18 661 this year. Naamsa said that new vehicle exports, in aggregate terms, would receive a boost by the Toyota export contract to Australia.

The association concluded that despite volatile international financial markets and unpredictable global economic and political developments, new vehicle sales in South Africa remained on track to record modest growth for the year as a whole. Exports of automotive components and vehicles could however come under pressure during the remainder of the year.

To view March's new vehicle sales figures, click here.