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Commenting on the latest new vehicle sales statistics for the month of September 2018, Naamsa said the latest domestic sales figures reflected a “difficult and subdued economic environment”. However, monthly export sales had recorded an all-time high.

New vehicle sales at 49 670 units had shown a decline of 974 vehicles or a fall of 1,9% compared with the 50 644 vehicles sold in September last year. September 2018 aggregate export vehicle sales represented a record number and at 36 781 vehicles had registered an improvement of 440 units or a gain of 1,2% compared with the 36 341 vehicles exported in September last year.

Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 49 670 vehicles, an estimated 39 011 units or 78,6% represented dealer sales, an estimated 16,5% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 2,7% to industry corporate fleets and 2,2% to government. The September 2018 new car market at 32 786 units had registered a decline of 892 cars or a fall of 2,6% compared with the 33 678 new cars sold in September last year.

The car rental industry had again made a strong contribution to the monthly car sales with an estimated 23,4% representing car rental purchases.

September 2018 domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini buses at 14 342 units had declined by a modest 168 units or 1,2% compared with the 14 510 light commercial vehicles sold during the corresponding month last year.

Sales in the low-volume medium and heavy truck segments of the industry reflected some improvement and at 702 units and 1 840 units respectively had recorded an increase of three vehicles or an improvement of 0,4% in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses, an improvement of 83 vehicles or a gain of 4,7% compared with the corresponding month in 2017. Both segments had now recorded improvements for the third consecutive month.

Naamsa added that the South African economy continued to experience recessionary conditions. Fixed capital investment remained under pressure and consumers’ disposable income, already under pressure, would be further impacted by the record impending increase in fuel prices.

Ongoing weakness in purchasing manager’s indices as well as the Reserve Bank’s leading indicator suggested that business conditions and the general trading environment would remain difficult over the next six to nine months. With three quarters of 2018 accounted for, the indications were that sales in all major segments, on an annualised basis, would probably register marginal declines compared to the previous year.

Vehicle exports remained a function of the direction of the global economy which, despite rising protectionism and trade disputes, continued to reflect robust conditions. Following the record export sales during September 2018 and, taking into account relatively strong order books reported by most vehicle exporters, exports were expected to improve further and reflect strong upward momentum in 2019, 2020 and subsequent years. The projection of export sales for 2019 was currently 384 000 export units compared to an estimated figure of 340 000 for the current year.