South Africa

Lockdown causes new-vehicle sales to nosedive

Lockdown causes new-vehicle sales to nosedive

New-vehicle sales in SA plummeted last month as Covid-19 hit the local motor industry hard.

With the country hit by physical distancing from the middle of the month and lockdown from March 27, new-vehicle sales dropped 29.7% to 33,545 units compared to March 2019.

Light commercial vehicles were the hardest hit, declining 37.1% to 9,425 units. Passenger cars didn’t fare much better, suffering a 26.8% year-on-year drop to 22,200 units.

“For the first time in a long time, the dealer channel performed worse than the overall market, showing the very tangible impact that footfall has on dealer business,” said Lebogang Gaoaketse, head of marketing and communication at WesBank.

The March slump has resulted in a year-to-date market decline of 12.8% to 117,230 sales, compared to the same period last year - a major blow to an industry that contributes 6.9% to SA’s GDP and employs more than 110,000 people.

Export sales at 28,883 units also registered a huge drop of 7,905 units - or a decline of 21.5% - compared to the 36,788 vehicles exported in March last year.

“The market was looking to establish some form of stability judging from February’s performance, only to be undone by the Covid-19 global pandemic,” said Gaoaketse.

“Looking at international markets already under lockdown, we can expect April to look even worse as consumers stay home and only essential services are delivered from dealer workshops.

“While we are in full support of the government’s decisive leadership measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, there is no denying the impacts it will have on the economy and certainly the country’s motor industry. With plant shutdowns already in place and dealers closed, the industry’s main concern will be the protection of jobs in this important employer base.”

The government’s drastic cut of the interest rate by 100 basis points is one glimmer of good news. It will not only help indebted consumers in the short term, but will provide huge assistance to restarting industry sales once the country gets back to normal, he says.

Although cars are parked in their owners' garages and driveways during the lockdown, the recent reduction in fuel prices will also contribute.

The automotive industry across the world is experiencing unprecedented challenges brought on by lockdowns implemented across all major car manufacturing countries and cities to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

The Chinese car market dropped an unprecedented 80% in February and US sales were approximately 36% down by mid-March in a market that sells more than 17-million new vehicles a year.

SA was already in a recession before the Covid-19 had any significant impact, said the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa).

“In exacerbating the situation further, the Moody’s rating downgrade during March comes at a time that the country is in the midst of pulling all its resources and capacity together to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 across the economy,” said a spokesperson.

TOTAL VEHICLE SALES BY MANUFACTURER - MARCH 2020 (Top 20)

  • Toyota: 8,715
  • Volkswagen Group: 5,499
  • Nissan: 2,775
  • Ford Motor Company: 2,667
  • Hyundai Automotive: 2,245
  • Mercedes-Benz: 1,506
  • Renault: 1,426
  • Suzuki Auto: 1,249
  • Isuzu Motors: 1,224
  • Kia: 1,003
  • Haval Motors: 923
  • BMW Group: 839
  • Mazda: 679
  • Mahindra: 544
  • Volvo Group: 319
  • Honda: 267
  • FAW Trucks: 159
  • FCA (Fiat, Alfa): 157
  • Jaguar Land Rover: 143
  • Porsche: 143