Associated Motor Holdings (AMH), the Imperial Group company that distributes a range of imported vehicle brands, anticipates gaining market share in South Africa because of the disruption to vehicle and component supplies caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Manny de Canha, AMH’s chief executive, said yesterday the temporary setback for the production and parts supply of Japanese brands opened up growth opportunities for competitors, including Korean, Indian and Chinese brands.

AMH distributes a variety of imported vehicles into the South African market, including Hyundai and Kia from Korea, Chery and Foton from China and Tata from India.

“In coming months their sales should increase as a result of the lack of supply from Japan,” he said.

“Companies and brands like Hyundai and Kia have no or very little (exposure to) components coming from Japan and the current situation will not really affect them but rather benefit them.”

AMH has contributed to the massive growth of sales of imported vehicles in the market, which now account for about 70 percent of total car sales.

In April, De Canha said the group would like to grow its market share by a maximum of about 1 percent a year and anticipated the group’s sales would increase this year to about 65 000 units from about 57 000 units.

De Canha said this week the enormity of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Japan had a ripple effect on the automotive and parts industry across the world and reports from Japan indicated supply and production would be back to about 70 percent of normal levels by year end.

He said component manufacturers in Korea, China and India were now also contenders to get included on the shopping list of any original equipment manufacturer.

Toyota South Africa Motors has taken the biggest knock from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and its leading market share position is under threat.

However, Ferdi de Vos, a company spokesman, stressed it would be defending its market share position to ensure it remained the overall market leader in the South African new vehicle market despite the knock it had taken from the disaster in Japan.

“We are well on the way to recovery and it should not be long before we are fighting fit yet,” De Vos said. “The impact of the Japanese disaster is not a permanent thing. We also have a very aggressive model strategy going forward, which should also help us.”

The Japan disaster has had an impact on the availability of certain Toyota models, but the company indicated last week its production plant in Durban had returned to full planned production and it would continue to work hard to restore full product availability. Toyota retained its market leadership position with total vehicle sales of 7 406 units in April.

However, Volkswagen South Africa was the overall top selling car maker in the country last month with sales of 7 711 units. It also retained its passenger car market leadership position with 7 052 units sold, more than double that of its nearest competitor, for a 24.4 percent market share.

Imperial Holdings shares lost 0.06 percent at R117.23. - Roy Cokayne