Aggregate new vehicle sales in March exceeded industry expectations in all sectors and was 28,4 per cent higher than in the corresponding period last year, Naamsa says.

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

Aggregate new vehicle sales in March exceeded industry expectations in all sectors and was 28,4 per cent higher than in the corresponding period last year, Naamsa says.

The market not only recorded significant gains compared with corresponding month last year, but aggregate sales were also higher than in February, when 32 330 units were sold. Total new vehicle sales last month (38 891 units) was an improvement of 8 614 vehicles compared with the 30 277 new vehicles sold in March last year.

New car sales in March (25 079 units) represented a gain of 5 160 units (25,9 per cent) compared with the 19 919 units sold during the same period last year. However, the increase was a little misleading, a Naamsa spokesman added, because car sales in March last year were especially weak.

The new car market also registered a notable improvement of 3 968 vehicles (18,8 per cent) compared with the 21 111 units sold during February.

Sales of new light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses in March (12 099 units) maintained strong growth momentum and reflected a massive improvement of 3 120 vehicles (34,7 per cent) compared with the 8 979 units sold in the corresponding month last year. Benefiting from renewed demand from the commercial and agricultural sectors, March’s new light commercial vehicles sales were also an improvement of 2 339 vehicles (24 per cent) compared with the 9 760 light commercial vehicles sold during February.

March sales of vehicles in the medium and heavy truck segments of the industry (695 and 1 018 units, respectively) reflected an improvement of 188 units (37 per cent), in the case of medium commercials, and 146 units (16,7 per cent), in the case of heavy commercial vehicles and buses – compared to the corresponding month last year. “Positive fixed investment trends and improving underlying economic fundamentals continued to support the South African trucking sector,” the Naamsa spokesman said.

As for the outlook for the rest of the year, Naamsa predicts: “Improving business sentiment, positive consumer confidence, stable interest rates and enhanced overall new vehicle affordability, in real terms, provides an environment conducive to further growth in vehicle sales in the months ahead”.

Reaction from the industry

McCarthy Motor Holdings chairman Brand Pretorius said last month's aggregate new vehicle sales were the best since June 1984, when 49 381 units were sold.

"In fact, sales growth in the commercial vehicle segments outstripped that of passenger cars by a considerable margin," said Pretorius. "Commercial vehicles sales are driven primarily by elements such as macro economic factors, business confidence and the current levels of business activity. Replacement demand brought about by the high average age of the vehicle population is also stimulating the market.

"Good stock availability and a 24-selling day month, also contributed to the industry's excellent performance.

"However, we shouldn't be too euphoric about March, as April is expected to be a tough selling month due to all the public holidays coming up," Pretorius said with reference to the Easter holidays, election day and Ten Years of Democracy celebrations.

Another factor that might start inhibiting new vehicle sales is the build-up of used car stock due to a slowdown in sales. "It is clear that some customers are perceiving more value in new cars at this point in time due to the many special offers available, thereby leading to a switch from late model used vehicles to new ones,” he added.

The majority of Volkswagen SA sales comprised compact cars and the firm was particularly upbeat about the effects of the low interest rates and increased disposable income.

Bill Stephens, VWSA's communications general manager said: "We are especially pleased by the strength of our dealer sales, which indicated consumer confidence in the economy and an increased capacity to buy new cars. The vast majority of our March sales went through the dealers with very little rental or government customer business."

General Motors SA, with its portfolio of Opel, Isuzu, Chevrolet, and Suzuki products, came within 87 units of claiming third place in terms of overall sales.

"Late last year we announced an aggressive roll out of new products through 2004 and 2005," said Malcolm Gauld, GMSA's director of sales and marketing.

"With results in for the first quarter it seems likely that the more bullishsales forecasts for the year will be realised. Now is certainly a good time to buy a new vehicle," he added.

Last month, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa recorded its highest retail sales figures since October 1996.

The Ford Bantam crashed through the symbolic 1 000 unit mark with sales of 1 206 units, which FMCSA claims to be the highest sales ever sales figure achieved by a half ton bakkie in a calendar month.

FMCSA director of sales and marketing Nigel Harris said: "March 2004 was the best sales month in recent years for the Ford brand.

"We have worked hard at bringing exciting vehicles into South Africa and, with the recent introductions of the Focus 1.8TDCi, the Ford Mondeo ST220, the Ford Fiesta Range and the powerful new Ford Ranger 4.0-litre V6, the Ford brand is attracting some real attention," he added.

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

Original article from Car