Cars travel on a main road in a traffic jam.

Johannesburg - South African new vehicle sales fell 2.1 percent in March from a year earlier, its first decline since December 2009.

Purchases declined to 54,946 last month from 56,152 a year earlier, the Pretoria-based National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said in an e-mailed statement today.

A weaker rand and “rising inflationary pressures facing consumers would damp growth in consumers’ real disposable income,” Naamsa said.

The Reserve Bank kept the benchmark repurchase rate at the lowest level in more than 30 years last month as inflation near the top end of its target limited the room it had to stimulate an economy that grew 2.5 percent last year, the slowest pace since a 2009 recession.

The inflation rate will breach the top of the bank’s target of 3 percent to 6 percent in the third quarter, Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said on March 20.

The rand has dropped 8 percent against the dollar in 2013, the worst performer among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Passenger-car sales fell 3.6 percent to 37,596 in March, while vehicle exports rose 18 percent to 28,338. - Bloomberg News