File photo: (David Zalubowski / AP).
JOHANNESBURG - Total new vehicle sales grew last month by 3.6% year-on-year to 36346 units but were 26% lower than the 49232 vehicles sold in March this year.

However, sales in March this year were significantly boosted by pre-emptive buying by consumers to avoid the increases in value added tax (VAT), new vehicle emissions taxes and ad valorem duty announced in the Budget.

Figures released yesterday revealed that sales of passenger cars were largely responsible for the growth in overall new vehicle sales last month.

New car sales increased last month by 6.4% year-on-year to 23928 units from the 22490 new cars sold in April last year. Sales to the vehicle rental industry only accounted for an estimated 7% of total new vehicle sales.

Nico Vermeulen, the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), said seasonal factors had affected the car rental industry contribution but had still accounted for about 8.6% of new car sales last month.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses declined last month by 1.2% year-on-year to 10580 units and medium commercial vehicles by 12.1%to 493 units.

Domestic

However, heavy truck and bus sales increased by 1.3% or 17 vehicles to 1345 units in the same period.

Vermeulen said the domestic sales total would probably increase by about 350 units once the delayed sales report by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles South Africa was received by about the middle of this month.

This follows Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) reporting the administrative merger of Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa and Chrysler South Africa from the beginning of this month although FCA South Africa has been under a single management team since 2012 in line with the global merger of the two automotive groups.

Azar Jammine, the chief economist at Econometrix, said the new vehicle sales figures were quite reasonable, especially for the passenger vehicle market.

Jammine said the improvement in growth should not have come as a complete surprise because there was an additional working day this year because Easter fell in March last year.

Jammine said the overall growth rate of 3.6% last month was about as good as could be hoped for the new vehicle market this year.

Total export sales last month improved by 0.8% to 24422 units from the 24229 units exported in April last year. Vermeulen said robust global growth should benefit new vehicle exports going forward.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE