The South African automotive market experienced a tumultuous year in 2023, as the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to influence consumer behaviour and industry dynamics.
New vehicle sales in South Africa stagnated in the second half of 2023, after two previous years of rebound following the Covid-19 pandemic.
December 2023 marked a key period for the industry, with new vehicle sales declining by 3.3% compared to December 2022. This was the fifth consecutive month of year-on-year decline.
This decline reflected ongoing economic uncertainties and logistical hurdles, such as port delays and power outages, which disrupted supply chains and consumer confidence.
On the other hand, the year saw a slight 0.5 per cent increase in total vehicle sales compared to 2022, however, it is now likely to take four years to regain the pre-pandemic level of 536,612 units in 2019, according to motor industry body Naamsa.
Despite these challenges, the market showed resilience and adaptability, with interesting trends emerging in both vehicle sales and the wider economic landscape
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On a positive note, sales of heavy commercial vehicles already exceeded the pre-pandemic level in 2022, supported by freight transport forced onto the roads due to rail inefficiencies.
Leading sales were brands such as Toyota, Volkswagen and Suzuki. These manufacturers managed to effectively navigate the complex market conditions, leveraging their strong brand presence and diverse vehicle offerings to appeal to a wide range of consumers.
Top 3 best-selling brands in December 2023
Toyota – More than 11 thousand units.
Volkswagen – More than 5,000 units.
Suzuki – Over 3 thousand units
The success of these brands also highlighted changing consumer preferences, which are increasingly focused on reliability, fuel efficiency and value for money.
The South African automotive industry’s performance in 2023 also shed light on the broader economic and logistical challenges facing the country.
Problems at major ports and frequent power outages not only affected vehicle imports and assembly, but also had a ripple effect on a number of sectors.
These disruptions highlighted the need for robust energy infrastructure and solutions to support the country’s economic growth and stability.
Looking ahead, the industry is poised for a transformation phase. The gradual recovery from the pandemic, coupled with technological advances and the shift towards sustainable mobility, is expected to shape the future of the automotive sector in South Africa. Consumers and businesses alike are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of transport, paving the way for greater adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles.