The motor industry development programme has helped lift sales of imported vehicles from 25,4 per cent in 1999 to 32,2 per cent in 2002 and it is expected to increase again this year.

The motor industry development programme (MIDP) has helped lift sales of imported vehicles from 25,4 per cent in 1999 to 32,2 per cent in 2002.

reports that according to the latest figures from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, 54 426 imported cars were sold in SA in 1999, while 78 128 units were sold last year. This accounts for one imported vehicle in three purchases.

Exports have increased at an even bigger rate, up from 24,6 per cent of local car production in 1999 to 40,9 per cent in 2002. This was 113 025 units in 2002 and is expected to increase to 135 000 units this year.

McCarthy chairman Brand Pretorius told the increase in the sale of imported vehicles had been expected. "All the local manufacturers are rationalising production lines, they tend to produce models here with high potential in the domestic market and models with excellent export potential," said Pretorius.

"Because of the (development programme), the tendency is to import low volume, niche models and to simplify local production," Pretorius said. “The variety is enormous. The niche models we are selling make a significant contribution."

Pretorius said manufacturers like Peugeot and Renault, which did not build cars locally, decreased their import tariffs by exporting components such as catalytic converters through the MIDP. "Component exports are subsidising the importation of cars," Pretorius said.

CARtoday.com reported in December that the trade and industry department has extended the MIDP to 2012. According to the department, duties on light vehicles, which are now at 40 per cent, will decline to 30 per cent in 2007 and to 25 per cent in 2012. For fully knocked down components, duties will fall from the current 30 per cent to 25 per cent in 2007 and to 20 per cent in 2012.