By Desie Heita
Sales of new passenger cars declined substantially since the beginning of the year and expectations are that the sales will be under pressure for the remainder of the year as household debts pile up.
Consumers bought less pick-up and sedan cars in the period between January and March 2008, compared to the corresponding period during last year.
Commenting on the performance of the two corresponding periods, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said sales of passenger cars (sedans) went down by 18 percent.
The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) keeps track of all car sales sold within the Southern Africa Customs Union member states.
“Negative consumer sentiment and business confidence had continued to impact on sales of sedan cars. The [pick-up and minibus] segment was also affected by the same current unfavourable economic factors impacting on the sedan car market,” Naamsa said in its assessment.
The association said the passenger car market “had weakened substantially in recent months as a result of the cumulative effect of past interest rate increases and pressure on disposable income due to rising energy, food and fuel costs.”
A total of 27 724 new sedan cars were sold in March 2008, while 16 616 pick-up trucks and minibuses were sold.
The association does not keep track of the second-hand car sales as well as certain imported cars. But it does keep track of all vehicles manufactured and assembled in South Africa and sold within SACU member states or exported to outside markets.
The sales statistics are grouped in four segments, from passenger cars (sedans), light commercial cars (including pick-ups, mini-buses, and panel vans), medium commercials (comprising of buses and smaller trucks), and heavy commercial (which consists of industrial buses, trucks and other heavy industrial equipment).
During March 2008, car dealers sold 47 778 vehicles.
Overall 142 278 vehicles were sold in the period of between January and March 2008 compared to 162 619 vehicles sold in the period of between January and March 2007.
The association said it is only the segments of medium commercial and heavy commercial that are set to continue with promising future sales because of fixed investments and infrastructural spending trends in the region.