Transnet Port Terminals broke monthly records at its three-car terminals with a 37 percent increase in fully built units handled in August. File Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN – Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) broke monthly records at its three-car terminals with a 37 percent increase in fully built units (FBU’s) handled in August over the same month a year before, as international demand for exports in this sector continues to rise.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa executive director, Mike Mabasa, exports remained the main driver of vehicle production activity in South Africa. Although exports were slightly lower in September, the “momentum remains upwards in the industry, on track to achieve a new record in 2019”, he said.

Last month 35 657 vehicles were exported, bringing the total for the first nine months to 297 065 units, which is 18.8 percent higher than the corresponding period last year. 

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In the same month, 49 191 vehicles were sold in South Africa.

Mabasa said in an interview that exports were proving the “saving grace” for the motor industry in South Africa, due to low levels of sales in the country. He said the drivers of export growth were the continuing increase in the number of export markets being penetrated by the local industry, and rising sales into Africa.

He said previously vehicle imports into other African countries were predominantly in the form of second hand imports, but an increasing number of African countries were imposing stiff import duties on second hand vehicles, as opposed to new vehicle imports. 

Acting TPT chief operating officer Velile Dube said August saw a surge of more than 31 percent at the Durban Car Terminal, while the Port Elizabeth Car Terminal handled 21 percent more FBUs, and East London increased volumes by 8.62 percent.

“The developments in the automotive sector are a good South African story, as foreign direct investment, localisation and policy considerations position the country as a vehicle and components supplier to the rest of Africa and the world,” said Dube.

South Africa currently exports to more than 155 markets, a figure that had increased significantly since 2017, and which was likely to continue increasing, said Mabasa.

While local car sales remained low, the demand from international markets was growing. The automotive sector accounts for more than 14 percent of total South Africa exports overall, contributing 6.8 percent to the country's gross domestic product.

BUSINESS REPORT