JOHANNESBURG — Motor companies and banks are split over whether positive economic indicators and tumbling fuel prices are creating a positive environment for domestic new-vehicle sales this year.
But while they wait to see which way the South African market goes, export sales are already booming. Exports of locally built cars shot up 84,4% last month, compared to January last year.
The rise was fuelled partly by Mercedes-Benz SA, which was not exporting — or even building — cars at the beginning of 2014, while it switched over to a new C-Class model. Last month it exported 2 479.
But it was not the only carmaker to improve. Total January-on-January car shipments grew from 6 021 to 11 104, helped by a weak rand and the continued recovery in demand in major northern hemisphere markets.
The same could not be said of light commercial (mainly bakkie) exports, which tumbled 28% — from 7 732 to 5 578 — according to figures compiled by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA.
Toyota SA president Johan van Zyl said on Monday the fall might not be short-term. Most South African bakkie exports were to other African countries, some of which had changed their policies on vehicle imports.
Algeria, a major South African customer, had curtailed government support for companies buying commercial vehicles, while Nigeria was raising import duties as it began to create its own motor industry.
Algeria and Nigeria were hit hard by falling oil prices.