Sales of new vehicles were down by 9,4% in the first month of the year to 47 296 sold compared with the 52 212 sold in January last year, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said on Monday.
New car sales were down to 30 483, or 14,6%, in January this year compared with 35 687 sold in the same month last year.
”It was clear that higher interest rates and high personal debt levels were increasingly affecting consumer spending and new car purchasing in South Africa,” Naamsa said.
It added that sales of new cars and light commercial vehicles were likely to remain under pressure during the first half of the year.
Manufacturers said that while the sales were down, there were some indications that they would decline at a slower pace in the coming months.
”With interest rates now on hold and with nominal new vehicle pricing now only growing at 3,8% year-on-year, the rate of decline in the new car sales cycle is likely to slow in coming months,” Volkswagen South Africa sales and marketing director Mike Glendinning said.
This sentiment was shared by Toyota’s chief executive, Johan van Zyl, who said buyers were cautious in January, pending the Reserve Bank’s rate decision.
”Many will have adopted a wait-and-see approach anticipating further upward pressure on the cost of finance during January. Fortunately this fear was not realised,” he said.
Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses were only slightly down in January this year with 134 fewer vehicles sold — or a percentage decline of 0,9% to 14 196 when compared with last year’s figure.
Sales of vehicles in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry were up with sales last month of 1 114 medium trucks and 1 503 heavy trucks being sold.
”Demand for commercial vehicles should remain at current good levels ahead of 2010-related projects and general economic growth,” General Motors SA vice-president of sales and marketing Malcolm Gauld said.
Aggregate new vehicle exports had shown an improvement, rising by 2 998 export sales, or 35,1%, to 11 548 vehicles last month from 8 550 vehicle exports in January last year. — Sapa