25 042 new trucks were sold in South Africa during 2017, a 2.65 decline from the previous year. File photo: Supplied

Cape Town - The South African truck market is expecting a slight increase in 2018 sales due to lack of growth in the local economy which continues to negatively impact the local truck market.

During 2017 the South African truck market declined by 2.65 percent on the previous year’s results to 25 042 new vehicles sold, according to the latest results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, Associated Motor Holdings and Amalgamated Automobile Distributors.

The extra heavy commercial vehicle segment recorded the only increase in sales year-on-year, by just 0.96 percent, concluding 2017 on 11 967.

Sales in the heavy commercial vehicle segment were down by 4.76 percent to 5290 while a 6.37 percent decline in sales was recorded in the medium commercial vehicle segment, to a final figure of 7785 at the end of 2017.

Political changes

UD Trucks Southern Africa managing director Gert Swanepoel said the lack of growth in the local economy has continued to negatively impact negatively on the South African truck market.

“With recent political changes in mind," he said, "we are hopeful that business confidence will return to more positive levels, which will certainly encourage businesses to invest in their fleets.

“Gross Fixed Capital Formation - the rate at which businesses add fixed assets such as plant, machinery, and equipment to their inventories - has seen an upturn to 4.3 percent during the third quarter of 2017," he explained, "with 37 percent attributed to the acquisition of new transport equipment, certainly a good sign for the truck industry.”

Exports down

Looking at truck sales from South Africa to other countries, total export sales from South Africa declined 5.54 percent to 946 units when compared to 2016’s results. In the heavy commercial vehicle segment, there was a significant increase of 25.58 percent in sales to 162, while extra heavies declined by 0.59 percent to 669, and medium commercials took a heavy knock of 41.92 percent to sell only 115 vehicles.  

However, Swanepoel said: “We are expecting sales in the export countries to increase during 2018, forecasting growth across all segments for a total sales estimate of around 990.

"Locally, we are forecasting a slight 1.5 percent growth in sales during the year to come, for a total truck market of an estimated 25 418.”

To gain even more traction in the Eastern African markets, UD Trucks has secured a new partner in Kenya to establish a Completely Knocked Downa ssembly facility, which will include the production of UD Trucks.  

“Due to local Kenyan regulations, a CKD plant is key to any success in that market," said Swanepoel. "We already have a product plan in place, and believe that UD Trucks line-up will be ideally suited to that country's road and operating conditions.”

Truck plant upgraded 

UD Trucks also invested R30 million in the modernisation of its Rosslyn assembly plant during 2017, to mirror the company’s Ageo plant in Japan. Further investments will continue in 2018.

Director of manufacturing at UD Plant Rosslyn Aubrey Rambau said: “A lot of emphasis was placed on real estate, tooling, and equipment, as well as acquiring new jigs, fixtures and implementing a new material supply system.

“Apart from gearing up for an extended UD Trucks model line-up over the medium term, we are also focusing on enriching the competence of our staff through various skills transfer programmes with Japan, as well as assembler development programmes.”

UD Trucks Southern Africa also trained 1247 dealers and customer staff at its competence development centre in Rosslyn during 2017, including 92 diesel mechanic apprentices, a highly sought-after skill in the transport industry.

African News Agency (ANA)