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The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) said the status quo of a “steady decline” in the overall new vehicle market continued into August 2019.

The organisation confirmed that aggregate domestic sales at 45 537 units reflected a decline of 2 440 units or 5,1 percent from the 47 977 vehicles sold in August last year. Monthly export sales, meanwhile, registered further strong gains in line with industry expectations. Particularly noteworthy was the fact the August 2019 export figure of 44 566 vehicles was the highest monthly total on record, Naamsa said.

Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 45 537 vehicles, an estimated 37 154 units or 81,6 percent represented dealer sales, an estimated 12,6 percent represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 3,9 percent to industry corporate fleets, and 1,9 percent to government.

The August 2019 new passenger car market had registered a decline of 2 381 cars or a fall of 7,6 percent to 29 075 units compared to the 31 456 new cars sold in August last year. The car rental industry’s contribution accounted for a substantial 18,0 percent of new car sales in August 2019.

Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses at 14 041 units during August 2019 had recorded an increase of 71 units or a modest gain of 0,5 percent from the 13 970 light commercial vehicles sold during the corresponding month last year.

Sales in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry reflected a mixed performance and at 740 units and 1 681 units, respectively, reflected an increase of 46 vehicles or an improvement of 6,6 percent in the case of medium commercial vehicles and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses, a decline of 176 vehicles or a fall of 9,5 percent compared with the corresponding month last year.

The August 2019 export sales number represented a new monthly record with export sales at 44 566 vehicles reflecting a further significant increase of 12 225 vehicles, or 37,8 percent, compared with the 32 341 vehicles exported in the same month last year. Vehicle exports for the year to date are now 48 753 vehicles or 22,9 percent higher than the corresponding period last year and on track to achieve another record in 2019.

Naamsa said consumers and businesses “remain under financial pressure” and the new vehicle market is feeling the pressure of the reduced spending power with regards to vehicle purchases. The ABSA Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) reiterated the current weak domestic demand environment, not just in its decline from 52,1 index points in July to 45,7 index points in August, but in particular the magnitude of the decline.

Business and consumer confidence levels remain low with the high-volume passenger car segment as well as the heavy, extra-heavy and bus segments performing weaker during August 2019 compared to the corresponding month last year. Worryingly, said Naamsa, purchasing managers expect conditions to worsen going forward.

On the positive side, the vehicle export performance remains extremely strong with the industry on track to achieve a new record in 2019. In this regard, industry vehicle production levels would continue to benefit from strong vehicle export sales.