Recent statements by automotive industry sources have again called into question the accuracy of manufacturers’ sales figures as reported by Naamsa on a monthly basis.

Recent statements by automotive industry sources have again called into question the accuracy of manufacturers’ sales figures as reported by Naamsa on a monthly basis.


on Thursday quoted an automotive industry source as saying the figures were not necessarily an accurate barometer of economic activity because "manufacturers and dealerships artificially inflate new car sales figures, particularly during times of soft consumer demand".


Recently, Econometrix economist Tony Twine also said that not too much should be read into car sales figures, which are used widely as an indicator of economic activity.


This debate is not entirely new. Early this year, McCarthy chairman Brand Pretorius said sales figures for January were largely influenced by the vehicle registration system and the way in which manufacturers report their sales.


"There are various factors which influenced the January 2003 vehicle sales. One of these was the large increase in sales reported by some of the luxury car manufacturers," Pretorius said at the time. "This is obviously linked to the vehicle registration system in the sense that many customers waited to take deliveries in January in order to ensure that they have 2003 model year registered vehicles.


It has also been suggested that manufacturers can boost new car sales through sales to themselves for purposes such as staff vehicles and cars made available to the motoring press.


Dealerships also sell new cars under the guise of demonstration models, the source told .


However, Naamsa director Nico Vermeulen said allegations were "wild and unsubstantiated", adding that sales other than those to consumers were recorded by Naamsa and were available for scrutiny.

The industry source said that in the year to date 7,2 per cent of all vehicles sold in South Africa had been by manufacturers to themselves, 3,9 per cent had been to government and 8,1 per cent had been to car hire companies. This suggests that only about 80 per cent of total sales have been to consumers in the year to date.


But the source told the 'paper the figure was distorted by the alleged practice of dealerships often selling new cars as used cars -the so-called "demonstration models".


He said dealerships were selling new cars under the guise of demonstration models in order to up the intake of new cars from factories. This practice is not illegal.


Toyota spokesman Roger Houghton said this has been "happening for years", but added the extent to which this happened was not sufficient to have an impact on car sales figures.


Vermeulen said it would make no commercial sense to sell new cars as used cars, because of the substantial difference in price between new and used vehicles.


The industry source said, however, that dealerships received incentives from manufacturers which "just about make up the loss on the difference".


"The source suggests that vehicle manufacturers place pressure on dealerships, because they are under pressure from overseas parent companies to perform in terms of maintaining or growing market share," the reported said.