NEW vehicle sales surged more than 14% year on year last month, according to figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) on Monday.
However, this "exceptionally strong" figure was a result of extraordinary factors, and was not indicative of buoyant consumer demand, with year-on-year dealer sales growth pegged at just 3.8%, according to Chris de Kock, Wesbank’s head of sales and marketing.
"New vehicle sales at 55,007 units registered an improvement of 6,805 vehicles or a gain of 14,1% compared with the 48,202 vehicles sold in January last year," Naamsa said in a release on Monday, adding that "all major segments recorded double digit year on year growth — new cars 12,3%, light commercials 20%, medium commercials 10.6%, heavy trucks 30% and extra heavy trucks 16.6%".
Additionally, Mr de Kock on Monday cautioned that "the biggest contributor to the strong sales growth in January 2013 actually came from the rental market, which recorded 48.5% growth in sales compared with January 2012".
This was "in no small part" likely a result of the demand for rental fleet to supply visitors to the African Nations Cup being held in this country, Johan Kleynhans, Nissan South Africa’s sales, marketing and after-sales director, said in a press release.
According to Naamsa, more than 22% of all new cars sold last month went to the rental companies.
Mr de Kock said limited growth at the dealers was still being driven by the "low interest rate environment", and as a result of the depreciating rand.
"It should also be noted that the rand has been very visible over the last month, having experienced considerable weakness, with the result that consumers may be pre-empting a price increase in new models. The fact is that price increases are inevitable and the weakness in the currency will begin to feed through to the inflationary component on new vehicles," Mr de Kock said.
Exports also grew in line with expectations, according to Naamsa, surging to 17,399 for the month of January, or a year-on-year increase of just shy of 50%.
"The momentum of vehicle exports was expected to improve further over the balance of the year and particularly exports of light commercial vehicles should increase substantially during 2013," Naamsa said.
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