New car sales declined last month by 5.4 percent year-on-year to 31 054 units and light commercial vehicle sales by 6.1 percent to 13 695 units. Photo: AP

PRETORIA – Work stoppages and unprocedural industrial action at various manufacturing plants impacted vehicle production and export sales last month, denting domestic vehicle sales. 

Figures released on Monday showed that total new vehicle sales declined last month by 4.6 percent to 47 486 vehicles from the 49 751 units sold in November last year.

New car sales declined last month by 5.4 percent year-on-year to 31 054 units and light commercial vehicle sales by 6.1 percent to 13 695 units.

However, sales of new medium commercial vehicles improved last month by 17.5 percent year-on-year to 804 units and heavy truck and bus sales by 17.5 percent to 1 933 units.

Nico Vermeulen, the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, said that both the medium and heavy commercial vehicle segments had now recorded improvements for the fifth consecutive month and that the stronger sales numbers suggested an improvement in capital investment sentiment.

Azar Jammine, the chief economist of Econometrix, said the overall sales figures were a little disappointing and although extra-heavy truck sales did reasonably well, these sales were difficult to explain.

“On the fact of it, these sales suggest there is quite a lot of capital investment going on, but I don’t see it in other areas,” he said.

Export sales of domestically produced vehicles increased last month by 2.5 percent year-on-year to 34 352 vehicles.

Jammine said sales figures were a reflection of the weak state of the overall economy while the impact of the strike at Toyota’s plant in Durban should not be underestimated.

He said the impact of the strike was reflected “very much” in the export figures, but also probably affected new vehicle supply to the domestic market.

“I’m very disturbed by the way in which industrial action and trade union action, especially by Numsa (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa), is killing the manufacturing sector in the country,” he said.

Jammine said the 0.25 percent interest rate hike by the Reserve Bank happened quite late in the month and probably only partly impacted on sales.

“You cannot ascribe the weakness of passenger and LCV (light commercial vehicle) sales entirely to interest rates,” he said.

BUSINESS REPORT