Reflecting on the new vehicle sales statistics for the month of April 2021 naamsa said that in view of the COVID-19 country hard lockdown restrictions during April 2020 when vehicle production and retail sales came to a standstill at the time, a comparison of the April 2021 new vehicle sales and export performance with the distorted industry performance in April 2020 will not be meaningful.
Since only 574 new vehicles were sold during April 2020, comparisons for purposes of this media release will therefore focus on the performance of April 2021 with the previous month of March 2021. Aggregate domestic sales in April 2021, at 35 779 units, reflected a decline of 7 649 units, or 17,6%, from the 43 428 vehicles sold in March 2021. Export sales also recorded a fall of 12 619 units, or 32,2%, to 26 522 units in April 2021 compared to the 39 141 vehicles exported in March 2021.
naamsa CEO, Mikel MABASA said that the configuration of public holidays and consequent fewer selling days impacted on the new vehicle sales and export performance during April 2021 compared to March 2021. For the first four months of 2021, however, the new vehicle market was now 28,3% above the corresponding period last year. Overall, out of the total reported industry sales of 35 779 vehicles, an estimated 31 482 units, or 88,0%, represented dealer sales, an estimated 7,5% represented sales to the vehicle rental industry, 2,4% sales to government, and 2,1% to industry corporate fleets.
The April 2021 new passenger car market at 22 911 units had registered a decline of 3 688 cars, or a fall of 13,9%, compared to the 26 599 new cars sold in March 2021. The car rental industry accounted for 10,1% of car sales in April 2021.
Domestic sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and mini-buses at 10 879 units during April 2021 had recorded a decline of 3 485 units, or a fall of 24,3%, from the 14 364 light commercial vehicles sold during March 2021.
Sales for medium and heavy truck segments of the industry also reflected a negative performance and at 511 units and 1 478 units, respectively, showed a fall of 163 units, or 24,2% in the case of medium commercial vehicles, and, in the case of heavy trucks and buses a fall of 313 vehicles, or a decline of 17,5%, compared to the previous month, 2021.
The April 2021 exports sales number at 26 522 units reflected a decline of 12 619 vehicles, or 32,2%, compared to the 39 141 vehicles exported in March 2021. For the first four months of 2021 vehicle exports were now 48,3% above the corresponding period last year.
The hard lockdown restrictions in South Africa and globally during the second quarter of 2020 distorted the domestic new vehicle sales performance and will impact on accurate and meaningful comparisons with the corresponding months of 2020 during the quarter. Renewed activity in the rental market, interest rates remaining at their low levels, the easing of the lockdown restrictions, as well as all five subcomponents of the ABSA Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) being in positive terrain for the first time since early 2012, will aim to support business and consumer sentiment and subsequently the new vehicle market in 2021. However, COVID-19 induced manufacturing supply chain disruptions, such as the current global shortage of semi-conductors, or computer chips, an important part of modern vehicles could impact on availability of specific models during the year. Importantly to take note off is that, although the new vehicle market in 2021 is expected to rebound substantially compared to 2020, aggregate new vehicle sales in 2020 dropped back to the level of 18 years ago and a recovery to the pre-COVID-19 level would take at least three years.
Vehicle exports for the year to date are substantially higher than the corresponding period of 2020. Vehicle exports are important to the viability of the domestic automotive industry, as exporting remains key to generating sufficient economies of scale and to achieving improved international competitiveness. The three main factors likely to determine the trajectory of the global economy in 2021 and subsequently the export performance of the domestic automotive industry include the path of the pandemic and how it is managed; the vaccine and how it is rolled out; and the actions of governments in response to the pandemic.