Ever since the Motor Industry Development Plan (MIDP) was formulated in the 1990s, the South African vehicle manufacturing industry has shifted from its apartheid-era protectionist model that saw it produce many different variants at low volumes, to a producer of fewer model variants at higher volumes with an emphasis on exports.
South Africa exported a total of 270 730 cars and bakkies to destinations around the world in 2020, keeping in mind that the industry was severely curtailed by the economic impact of Covid-19 restrictions. A better indication of SA’s potential as an exporter can be seen in 2019’s record figure of 386 265 units.
But where are South Africa’s vehicles being exported to? According to figures sourced from Naamsa and Lightstone Auto, the country that has imported the most South African cars in recent years is the UK, accounting for 67 798 units in 2020 and 101 401 units in 2019.
The UK is followed by Germany, with 25 736 units imported from SA in 2020, Japan (23 645), France (13 956), Australia (13 041), Italy (10 456), Belgium (10 048), USA (8 584), Netherlands (8 321) and Austria (6 376). Other smaller markets, however, collectively accounted for an additional 82 679 units last year according to the data.
In total, exports made up just over 60 percent of the 447 218 vehicles that were manufactured in South Africa last year.
With export countries slowly getting back to normal following the successful rollout of vaccine programmes, Naamsa is predicting a sharp rise in exports in the next two years, to around 315 000 units in 2021 and 335 000 in 2022. However, a formidable challenge lies ahead with Europe (being our biggest export destination) gearing up for a large-scale switch to electric cars. If the South African government’s recently announced Green Paper on the Advancement of New Energy Vehicles in South Africa does not prove successful, our export programmes could be severely curtailed.
South Africa is still a small player on the global car manufacturing scene, accounting for around 1 percent of global production.
The country’s top exporter last month was Volkswagen, which shipped 6 783 Polos abroad, followed by Mercedes with its C-Class (6 205), Ford (Ranger – 5 954), BMW (X3 – 6205) and Toyota (2 795).