42 percent of the cars South Africans buy are now imported from India

Seventy-five percent of South Africa’s entry-level cars are sourced from India, and the Suzuki Swift is the top seller among them.

Seventy-five percent of South Africa’s entry-level cars are sourced from India, and the Suzuki Swift is the top seller among them.

Published Feb 1, 2024


Alanis Morissette once sang “Thank you India”, likely for leading her onto a path of enlightenment during a vacation, but South Africa’s entry-level car buyers can be grateful to that nation up north for an entirely different reason.

Were it not for India’s motor manufacturing industry, South Africans would be severely starved of affordable cars, and clearly there is a huge hunger for them.

In 2023 a whopping 42% of all passenger cars sold in South Africa were imported from India, according to statistics released by Toyota recently. This represents a huge increase from the 28% recorded five years earlier in 2019.

Thankfully, South African-built cars didn’t lose too much ground in their own market, declining from a 25% share in 2019 to 24% in 2023.

The third biggest source country for local cars was China, its representation growing from 3% to 9% in five years, while Germany was down from 10% to 6% over the same period. Spain grew from 3% to 4% while South Korea dipped from 7% to 3%.

South Africa still produced most of its own light commercial vehicles, however, which had an 81% market share versus India’s 8% and China’s 5%.

75% of SA’s budget cars come from India

IOL took a closer look at the representation of Indian-built vehicles at the lower end of the market and found that 75% of the passenger car model ranges that have a starting price of under R300,000 are sourced from India - that’s 18 out of 24. It’s only above this mark that other source countries feature meaningfully, with India’s representation dropping to 61% at the R350,000 mark.

If we look at South Africa’s sales charts for the whole of 2023 (see the full list here), 11 of the 20 most popular passenger cars were Indian-sourced. These, in order of sales, were the Suzuki Swift, Toyota Starlet, Hyundai Grand i10, Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger, Kia Sonet, Renault Kwid, Suzuki Baleno, Toyota Urban Cruiser, Renault Triber and Hyundai i10.

The aforementioned Toyota models are, of course, closely based on Maruti Suzuki products.

While the latter auto giant has done wonders for vehicle affordability in Mzansi, there are a few question marks over the safety credentials of its smaller models.

In recent Global NCAP tests, for instance, the Suzuki Swift, Ignis and S-Presso each received just one star for adult occupant protection.

The situation seems to improve with the bigger models, however, as the Toyota Urban Cruiser - which is based on Suzuki’s Grand Vitara - received four stars.

The Nissan Magnite and its Renault Kiger and Triber siblings were also awarded with four-star ratings, while the Hyundai i20 received three.

Stretching the budget to a larger vehicle seems to be a sound strategy for those who have the means.

IOL Motoring