Aggregate new vehicle sales in February were 16,8 per cent higher than the corresponding month last year, but 10,7 per cent lower than in January, Naamsa says.

:: Click here for February's complete new vehicle sales figures ::

Aggregate new vehicle sales in February were 16,8 per cent higher than the corresponding month last year, but 10,7 per cent lower than in January, Naamsa revealed on Tuesday.

Compared with the same month last year, sales improved in all major segments of the new vehicle market. In total, the 32 330 units retailed represented an improvement of 4 666 vehicles over the 27 664 units sold in the corresponding period last year.

New car sales in February (21 114 units) were 3 222 units (18 per cent) higher than the corresponding month in 2003. This performance proved to be the best February sales month in seven years, when 33 237 new vehicles were sold in 1997. However, the new car market declined by 2 537 vehicles compared with the 23 651 units sold during January.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses rebounded quite strongly last month and at 9 760 units reflected “a welcome improvement” of 1 188 vehicles (13,8 per cent) compared with the 8 572 units sold in February last year, Naamsa said. Moreover, February’s light commercial vehicle sales were 917 vehicles (10,3 per cent) higher than the 8 843 LCVs sold during January.

Meanwhile, sales in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry continued to register gains in February. Sales figures of 551 units and 905 units respectively, were an improvement of 124 units (29 per cent) in the case of medium commercials, and 132 units (17 per cent) for heavy commercial vehicles and buses – compared with February last year. Sales of vehicles in the medium, heavy and extra heavy commercial vehicle segments of the industry “remained in a strong upward phase on the back of positive fixed investment trends,” a Naamsa spokesman said.

“The short to medium term prospects for the industry remain decidedly upbeat… Stable interest rates and new vehicle prices and an expected improvement in the rate of growth in the economy will provide conditions that are conducive to continued growth in new car and commercial vehicle sales during 2004,” he added.

Reaction from the motor industry:

“New vehicle sales are being fuelled by enhanced affordability, which is mainly a result of continued price stability and a substantially reduced interest rate,” said McCarthy Motor Holdings chairman Brand Pretorius. “Along with higher levels of business confidence, aggressive sales campaigns by some manufacturers and dealers are stimulating demand for new vehicles.”

“Growth in the medium and heavy commercial segment was particularly impressive. In both those segments the average age of the vehicle population is estimated at 14 years, making the replacement of ageing fleets imperative. This strong demand also substantiates the hypotheses that investment by the private sector in capital equipment, is accelerating,” Pretorius added.

Pretorius predicted that the current sales trend could be sustained if the fundamentals underpinning the market remained in place for the foreseeable future: “It is therefore probable that sales for the calendar year 2004 could get close to the 400 000 unit level, which will make it the best for the industry in 20 years”.

Hennie de Villiers, general manager sales at Toyota SA said February's results reflected a market that was “still extremely buoyant” and predicted a prosperous year ahead for the industry since the first quarter usually set the trend for the rest of the year.

Associated Motor Holdings chief executive Manny da Canha said: "It's evident low interest rates that resulted in higher disposable income per household and minimal price increases had a strong influence on vehicle sales for February".

"The new vehicle retail sales market is really coming alive versus the same time last year," was the comment from Nigel Harris, director of marketing and sales for FMCSA.

However, he said there been "greater stock availability at dealer point we believe that the market would have been stronger" along with the increased demand for recently launched models.

"It's still a tough trading market but an exciting and encouraging one," Harris added.

:: Click here for February's complete new vehicle sales figures ::

Original article from Car