Johannesburg - While South Africa’s new vehicle market remains under pressure, having shrunk by 1.0 percent last year, exports are proving to be a silver lining for the local industry, with record volumes recorded in 2018.

A total of 351 154 South African made vehicles were exported to countries around the globe last year, which was 3.9 percent up on 2017 and the highest export volume ever recorded. To put that into historical perspective, South Africa exported just 25 000 vehicles 20 years ago in 1998, and the figures rose substantially post 2000 as the incentive-based Motor Industry Development Programme of 1995 started bearing fruits.

Today a similar incentive plan called the Automotive Production Development Programme remains in place, but it remains to be seen whether the reforms planned for beyond 2020, which require increased localisation, will affect the production and export scenario.

Nonetheless, the export picture is looking rosy in the short term at least, and Naamsa is expecting further growth in 2019.

South Africa’s vehicle export effort is reliant on just a handful of vehicles, with only five averaging four figures a month. How do they rank? We calculated the top five based on figures for the second half of 2018, which gives a more accurate picture as some manufacturers were phasing in new models earlier in the year.

Without further ado, let’s meet South Africa’s export heroes…

5. Toyota Hilux

Total (Jul-Dec): 25 375

Monthly average: 4229

4. Volkswagen Polo

Total (Jul-Dec): 30 755

Monthly average: 5126

3. BMW X3

Total (Jul-Dec): 33 679

Monthly average: 5613

2. Ford Ranger

Total (Jul-Dec): 38 521

Monthly average: 6420

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Total (Jul-Dec): 55 550

Monthly average: 9258

It might seem surprising to some that Mercedes-Benz is by far the biggest exporter, and things are only set to get better for the East London based operation, following the most recent investment R10 billion announced last year, which will see significant plant upgrades taking place as it gears up for production of the next generation C-Class.

Gauteng-based BMW and Ford have also recently made major investments in producing their respective Ranger and X3 models for local consumption and export, with Ford also having invested in a brand new 2-litre turbodiesel engine.

Best of the rest

The five vehicles above are not the only ones that South Africa exports, however. In the second half of last year, Nissan exported over 400 Hardbody bakkies a month, while Isuzu exported a monthly average of 316 KB and D-Max pick-ups. Toyota’s Fortuner is also sent abroad at a rate of almost 150 units a month, and the Toyota Corolla at around 100 units.

IOL Motoring