Vehicle sales driven down by holidays

FORGING ON: An employee works at the Ford engine plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth. Ford achieved its highest market share last month
FORGING ON: An employee works at the Ford engine plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth. Ford achieved its highest market share last month

THE spate of public holidays had a major impact on vehicle sales in South Africa last month. All the Eastern Cape vehicle manufacturers sold fewer cars last month than in March, with export sales also down.

Total domestic vehicle sales dropped from 55503 in March this year to 46013 last month, and exports dropped from 24665 in March to just 16801 last month.

National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) director Nico Vermeulen said the public holidays and economic conditions impacted on vehicle sales, which declined by 10.7% domestically last month compared to April last year. Exports declined by 32.6%.

“As a result of the public holidays, the absolute declines recorded were more pronounced than the underlying trend. From the middle of [this year], the momentum of industry vehicle exports is expected to improve.

“With the contribution of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class exports kicking in from July onwards, industry vehicle exports are expected to recover in the second half of the year, particularly in respect of exports to Asia, Africa and Europe,” Vermeulen said.

Ford vice-president of marketing, sales and service Mark Kaufman said Ford sales remained robust last month and grew 7% year on year.

“April sales are notoriously anomalous due to the spate of public holidays. This year’s impact was greater than usual as more holidays fell within April compared with last year, providing only 19 selling days [excluding Saturdays] in the month,” Kaufman said.

With 559 units of the top performing EcoSport SUV being sold, Ford achieved its highest market share this year at 11.9%.

Kaufman said consumers were attracted to the technology and design of their new vehicles, especially the EcoBoost engine family.

“While April sales cannot be taken as indicative, they certainly reaffirm that trading conditions are tougher,” he said.

General Motors captured an industry share of 10.4% last month, and expected trading conditions for the balance of the year to continue to be under pressure.

GMSA vice-president of vehicle sales, service and marketing Brian Olson said April was a good month for SUV sales as both Chevrolet Trailblazer and Captiva recorded their best sales for this year.

“We are pleased that despite a declining industry trend to date, GMSA products have found increased favour with South African buyers in an ever-tightening industry,” Olson said.

While the industry went down by 5%, GMSA managed to see positive results with the Port Elizabeth vehicle manufacturer’s year-to-date sales up by 2.4%, he said.

Business Partners Limited executive director Christo Botes said April and May was a second festive season for many South Africans, which had a knock-on effect for business productivity and the economy.

Botes said it had been reported that the effect of one public holiday could cost South Africa more than R1-billion.

However, the number of public holidays – 13 in total this year – was in line with many developed countries in the world, he said.

While business production was likely to be affected by public holidays, the impact could be managed given those days were planned for in advance, thereby allowing businesses to react appropriately and factor in the possible effects of fewer work days.

With South Africa’s economy beginning to recover, the impact of fewer productive work days would result in the economic recovery taking slightly longer, he said. – Cindy Preller


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