Colin-on-Cars – Strange month for new car sales

April was a weird month for South African new vehicle sales – as if anything could have been weirder than the total lockdown scenario of April 2020 – with multiple public holidays and staggered school holidays drastically reducing selling days yet, year-on-year, sales were up 6 133,3%.

But wait, reality still has to bite! The reality was a little more subdued when considering that April’s 35 779 sales were 17,6% lower than last month – 7 649 units less than March.

Reflecting on the new vehicle sales statistics for April 2021 Naamsa said in view of the COVID-19 country hard lockdown restrictions during April 2020 when vehicle production and retail sales came to a standstill at the time, a comparison of the April 2021 new vehicle sales and export performance with the distorted industry performance in April 2020 will not be meaningful.

Aggregate domestic sales in April 2021, at 35 779 units, reflected a decline of 7 649 units, or 17,6%, from the 43 428 vehicles sold in March 2021. Export sales also recorded a fall of 12 619 units, or 32,2%, to 26 522 units in April 2021 compared to the 39 141 vehicles exported in March 2021.

Naamsa CEO, Mikel Mabasa said the configuration of public holidays and consequent fewer selling days impacted on the new vehicle sales and export performance during April 2021 compared to March 2021.

For the first four months of 2021, however, the new vehicle market was now 28,3% above the corresponding period last year.

Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 35 779 vehicles, an estimated 31 482 units, or 88,0%, represented dealer sales, an estimated 7,5% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 2,4% sales to government, and 2,1% to industry corporate fleets.

The April 2021 new passenger car market at 22 911 units registered a decline of 3 688 cars, or a fall of 13,9%, compared to the 26 599 new cars sold in March 2021. The car rental industry accounted for 10,1% of car sales in April 2021.

Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses at 10 879 units during April 2021 had recorded a decline of 3 485 units, or a fall of 24,3%, from the 14 364 light commercial vehicles sold during March 2021.

Sales for medium and heavy truck segments of the industry also reflected a negative performance and at 511 units and 1 478 units, respectively, showed a fall of 163 units, or 24,2% in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses a fall of 313 vehicles, or a decline of 17,5%, compared to the previous month, 2021.

The April 2021 exports sales number at 26 522 units reflected a decline of 12 619 vehicles, or 32,2%, compared to the 39 141 vehicles exported in March 2021. For the first four months of 2021 vehicle exports were now 48,3% above the corresponding period last year.

COVID-19 induced manufacturing supply chain disruptions, such as the current global shortage of semi-conductors, or computer chips, an important part of modern vehicles could impact on availability of specific models during the year.

Although the new vehicle market in 2021 is expected to rebound substantially compared to 2020, aggregate new vehicle sales in 2020 dropped back to the level of 18 years ago and a recovery to the pre-COVID level will take at least three years.

“April sales are difficult to interpret within the context of lockdown,” says Lebogang Gaoaketse, Head of Marketing and Communication at WesBank Vehicle and Asset Finance. “On balance, April sales lost less against March than March sales had gained against February, meaning the market remains in its state of slow recovery.” March sales had increased 18.4% over February.

“Demand in the new vehicle market remains high as judged by WesBank’s daily application rate. While WesBank continues to finance more than twice the number of pre-owned vehicles than new, there is a marginal shift towards new car sales as experienced during April.”

Affordability remains a key purchase consideration, driving consumers towards the pre-owned market. “Attractive incentives in the new vehicle market, however, as well as low interest rates, are providing some stimulus to the new vehicle market,” says Gaoaketse.

“We must be mindful, however, of potential setbacks in coming months. In contrast to 2020, we have customers, but a shortage of many models due an increasing number of global logistical challenges are impacting negatively on the current and future new vehicle stock availability in South Africa. We’re experiencing a global scarcity of microchips, as well as steel, resin, and rubber,” says Mark Dommisse, the Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA)

“We now unfortunately have the added complication of severe lockdowns in India, limiting production. India is a large source of built-up vehicle imports, particularly in the entry level segment of the market,” added the NADA Chairperson.

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