Ex­ports of SA-built ve­hi­cles hit a high

Daily Dispatch - - Business - DAVID FURLONGER BDlive

Ex­ports of SA-built ve­hi­cles hit a record high in 2018, com­pen­sat­ing for what turned out to be a dis­ap­point­ing year for sales in the lo­cal mar­ket.

A 56% ex­port boost in De­cem­ber (man­u­fac­tur­ers shipped 31,437 cars and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles to more than 100 coun­tries around the world, com­pared to 20,107 in De­cem­ber 2017) pro­pelled the full-year to­tal to 351,154.

That was a 3.9% im­prove­ment on 2017’s fig­ure of 338,096 but also took the num­ber past the pre­vi­ous an­nual record of 344,821, set in 2016.

Do­mes­tic sales fell 1% in 2018, the fourth an­nual de­cline in five years. Since 2013, only 2017 has dis­played growth.

Sales of all new ve­hi­cles slid 1.9% in De­cem­ber 2018 from the cor­re­spond­ing month of 2017, from 40,751 to 39,984.

The re­sult was that full-year 2018 sales fell 1%, from 557,703 to 552,190.

Fig­ures were re­leased this week by the depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try.

Car sales fell 0.2% in De­cem­ber from a year ear­lier, from 26,595 to 26,547.

For 2018, they were down 0.8%, from 368,114 to 365,246. Sales of light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, mainly bakkies, fell 2.4% in 2018.

Heav­ier com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles fared bet­ter in the sec­ond half of the year but their num­bers were too small to have much of an im­pact on the over­all mar­ket. Medium truck sales for the year rose 0.3% and heavy trucks 6.5%.

SA’s Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers di­rec­tor Nico Ver­meulen says frag­ile con­sumer and busi­ness con­fi­dence will con­tinue to limit growth in 2019.

“Most au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies are plan­ning their op­er­a­tions on the ba­sis of a flat mar­ket in 2019,” Ver­meulen said.

Ex­port prospects, how­ever, re­main pos­i­tive.

SA ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers, most of whom ship more than 50% of pro­duc­tion to for­eign mar­kets, seem gen­er­ally heart­ened by trade and in­dus­try min­is­ter Rob Davies’s re­cent state­ment that fu­ture gov­ern­ment au­to­mo­tive pol­icy will re­tain most of the fea­tures that have at­tracted ma­jor for­eign in­vest­ment in re­cent years.

Some com­pa­nies are un­happy with cer­tain as­pects of Davies’s 2021-2035 Au­to­mo­tive Mas­ter­plan but, for the time be­ing, ma­jor par­tic­i­pants re­main com­mit­ted to SA pro­duc­tion.

That’s good news for ex­ports. De­cem­ber’s 56% surge was partly the re­sult of hor­ri­ble num­bers a year ear­lier when, in De­cem­ber 2017, Volk­swa­gen SA had sus­pended pro­duc­tion in prepa­ra­tion for the launch of new cars. –

Pic­ture: ALAN EA­SON

SEC­TOR PER­FORM­ING WELL: Ve­hi­cle ex­port prospects re­main pos­i­tive.

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