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The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) said the new vehicle sales declining trend continued into July 2019, with lower passenger car sales again partially offset by growth in all of the commercial vehicle segments.

Reflecting on the new vehicle sales statistics for the month of July 2019, Naamsa confirmed aggregate domestic sales at 46 077 units reflected a decline of 1 779 units or 3,7 percent from the 47 856 vehicles sold in July 2018. The upward momentum on the export side continued to register substantial growth of 6 216 vehicles, or a gain of 22,1 percent with the 28 081 vehicles exported in July last year.

Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 46 077 vehicles, an estimated 36 974 units or 80,2 percent represented dealer sales, an estimated 14,0 percent represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 3,6 percent to industry corporate fleets and 2,2 percent to government.

The July 2019 new passenger car market had registered a decline of 2 617 cars or a fall of 8,2 percent to 29 477 units compared with the 32 094 new cars sold in July last year. The car rental industry’s contribution accounted for a substantial 19,7 percent of new car sales in July 2019.

Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses at 13 852 units during July 2019 had recorded an increase of 391 units or a gain of 2,9 percent from the 13 461 light commercial vehicles sold during the corresponding month last year.

Sales in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry reflected a good performance and at 801 units and 1 947 units, respectively, reflected an increase of 104 vehicles or an improvement of 14,9 percent in the case of medium commercial vehicles and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses, a substantial increase of 343 vehicles or an improvement of 21,4 percent compared with the corresponding month last year.

Naamsa said the July 2019 export sales number represented a “substantial gain” with export sales at 34 297 vehicles reflecting an increase of 6 216 vehicles, or 22,1 percent, compared with the 28 081 vehicles exported in the same month last year. Vehicle exports for the year to date are now 35 738 vehicles or 19,8 percent higher than the corresponding period last year.

The Association added the lowering of the interest rate by 25 basis points as well as relief from lower fuel prices during July “offered some reprieve” for financially strained consumers. The Absa Purchasing Managers’ Index measured 52,1 index points in July 2019, the first reading above the neutral 50-point mark since December 2018, signalling an expansion in activity. The increase in all commercial vehicle segments therefore bodes well for the remainder of the year.

However, Naamsa said in a low-growth environment “other structural reforms that deal with underlying issues in the economy need to complement the lowering in the interest rate for sustained improvement in business and consumer confidence going forward”.

“The turnaround anticipated for the second half of the year has not [been] realised in the new vehicle market yet. The export performance, however, remains strong and industry vehicle production levels would continue to benefit from strong vehicle export sales,” Naamsa added.