Toyota's Hilux continued to dominate the market.
Johannesburg - Total new vehicle sales grew last month by 3.6 percent year-on-year to 36 346 units, but were 26 percent lower than the 49 232 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 on Wednesday 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 percent year-on-year to 23 928 units from the 22 490 new cars sold in April last year. Sales to the vehicle rental industry only accounted for an estimated 7 percent 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 percent of new car sales last month.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses declined last month by 1.2 percent year-on-year to 10 580 units and medium commercial vehicles by 12.1 percent to 493 units.

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.

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 percent 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 percent to 24422 units from the 24229 units exported in April last year. Vermeulen said robust global growth should benefit new vehicle exports going forward.

On the vehicle sales charts, Toyota's Hilux took top spot with 2679 sales, while its closest rival the Ford Ranger managed 2372. Volkswagen's Polo Vivo dominated the passenger vehicle market with 2143 units sold, closely followed by the new-generation Polo (1907).

Look out for IOL's full sales report, featuring the top 10 sellers in every major segment, later on Thursday.