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The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said the latest vehicle sales reflected a “welcome surprise” on the upside with export sales continuing to perform exceptionally well.

The declining trend in the new vehicle market since the beginning of the year came to a halt in April 2019. Reflecting on the new vehicle sales statistics for the month of April 2019, Naamsa confirmed that aggregate domestic sales at 36 794 units showed an improvement of 266 units or 0,7 percent from the 36 528 vehicles sold in April 2018.

Export sales had again registered strong growth reflecting a substantial improvement of 11 571 vehicles or a gain of 53,8 percent compared with the 21 519 vehicles exported in April last year.

Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 36 794 vehicles, an estimated 31 945 units or 86,8 percent represented dealer sales, an estimated 6,5 percent represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 4,1 percent to industry corporate fleets and 2,6 percent to government.

The April 2019 new passenger car market had registered an improvement of 935 cars or an increase of 3,9 percent to 24 989 units compared with the 24 054 new cars sold in April last year. The car rental industry’s contribution accounted for 8,0 percent of new car sales in April 2019.

Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini buses at 9 810 units during April 2019 had recorded a decline of 866 units or a fall of 8,1 percent from the 10 676 light commercial vehicles sold during the corresponding month last year.

Sales in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry performed well and at 577 units and 1 418 units, respectively, reflected a gain of 95 vehicles or an improvement of 19,7 percent, in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses, an improvement of 102 vehicles or a gain of 7,8 percent compared with the corresponding month last year.

The April 2019 export sales number represented another “admirable performance” with export sales at 33 090 vehicles reflecting a substantial increase of 11 571 units or a gain of 53,8 percent compared with the 21 519 vehicles exported in the same month in 2018. Naamsa said the momentum of vehicle exports over the course of 2019 should increase further and industry export sales for the year could reach close to 400 000 units compared with the record 351 139 vehicles exported last year.

Although the Absa Purchasing Manager’s Index increased slightly, for the first time after three successive months of decline, the PMI remained below the neutral 50-point mark which means that factory conditions stabilised at fairly depressed levels. Demand for domestic new vehicles, particularly the new car market, would continue to remain under pressure in the coming months affected by numerous constraining factors, said Naamsa.

Consumer and business confidence levels are low, household disposable income remains under pressure due to rising costs of living and lower domestic and global economic growth forecasts which continues to signal moderation in new vehicle sales.

However, constructive political and economic reforms after the country’s general election on 8 May 2019 could see an improved second half performance in terms of new vehicle sales, said Naamsa. The upward momentum on the export remains strong and industry vehicle production levels would continue to benefit from strong vehicle export sales.