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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


Surprises all around as new vehicle sales end 2023 on a downer

Despite a rapid decline towards the end of the year, overall sales for 2023 improved a fraction on that of 2022.


In a turnaround from how the year started, new vehicle sales ended 2023 on a false note with a fifth consecutive decrease in December.

Vitz surprise

Although it kept its position as the country’s best-selling vehicle for an 11th month, the exception being May, when it finished second behind its arch rival, the Ford Ranger, sales of the Toyota Hilux again dipped below 3 000 units with a total of 2 858 units moved.

In a reversal from November, the Volkswagen Polo Vivo swapped places with the Ranger to place second on 2 448 versus 1 936, with the Toyota Corolla Cross keeping station in fourth place, but only just, on 1 932.

ALSO READ: November vehicle sales sink as port and energy struggles bite

Providing the biggest surprise, the Toyota Vitz placed fifth with sales of 1 358 units, its best performance since debuting in April last year as the replacement for the Ayga.

In sixth, seventh and eighth places, the Toyota HiAce, Isuzu D-Max and Toyota Starlet were the only other vehicles to sell more than 1 000 units with respective sales of 1 056, 1 023 and 1 013.

Completing the top 10 in a near balanced showing of locally built and imported models, was the Suzuki Swift (967) and the Renault Triber with one of its best showings of the year (911).

Month in detail

The month’s poor showing being attributed not only to shorter business hours as a result of the festive season, but also the ongoing economic struggles and energy crisis, the figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) showed an overall decrease of 3.3% in December from 2022’s 41 721 to 40 329.

In the respective segments, three ended the month in the red, namely passenger vehicle sales that lost 3.9%, light commercial vehicles 2.9% and medium-duty commercial vehicles with the most severe at 24.2%.

Going the other way, heavy-duty commercial vehicles ended 2023 on a high with an uptake of 13.9%, while exports rose 1.2% from 26 295 to 26 612. Besides the latter, no detailed figures for the other segments were disclosed.

Positive performance but…

Despite the negative year-end finish, the industry’s early year performance of three to four months of back-to-back growth resulted in an overall yearly increase of 0.5% from 2022 with a total of 532 098 vehicles sold versus 529 556.

More crucial though, vehicle exports recorded its biggest total since 2019 with a 12.7% increase from 2022’s 351 785 to 396 290.

“The new vehicle market’s prolonged recovery from the pandemic stuttered towards the second half of 2023, following two previous years of sound rebound. The market was still 1.3% below the pre-pandemic level in 2022 and for most of 2023 was well on track to recover to the pre-pandemic level of 2019,” Naamsa said.

However, amid a depressed economy, elevated cost of living increases and power outages, new vehicle sales finally yielded to the pressure with major logistical challenges at the country’s ports towards year-end further undermining the new vehicle market’s ability to full recovery.

The association also warned that the current economic situation paints a somewhat gloomy picture for 2024.

“The country’s weak economic growth rate, although still marginally positive, remains a key challenge for the new vehicle market going forward in view of the close correlation between new vehicle sales and the gross domestic production (GDP) growth rate,” it said.

“With a modest GDP growth rate of 1% projected for 2024, the new vehicle market would likely only improve by single digits of around 5% compared to the level of 2023.”

Top 10 marques

Out of the country’s 10 best-selling brands, the top three remained unchanged in December with Toyota ranking above Volkswagen and Suzuki with sales of 11 200 versus 5 274 and 3 355 respectively.

Swapping places with Ford to finish fourth, Hyundai ended December with 2 569 compared to the Blue Oval’s 2 489.

Alliance partners Nissan and Renault took sixth and seventh places with sales of 1 900 and 1 864, while Haval jumped a single notch from ninth in November to eighth with a total of 1 480 units sold.

Dropping two places to ninth, Isuzu capped the year and 2023 off with sales of 1 434 ahead of Kia who posted figures of 1 415.

December’s 50 best selling cars

  1. Toyota Hilux – 2 858
  2. Volkswagen Polo Vivo – 2 448
  3. Ford Ranger – 1 936
  4. Toyota Corolla Cross – 1 932
  5. Toyota Vitz – 1 358
  6. Toyota HiAce – 1 056
  7. Isuzu D-Max – 1 023
  8. Toyota Starlet – 1 013
  9. Suzuki Swift – 967
  10. Renault Triber – 911
  11. Chery Tiggo 4 Pro – 898
  12. Toyota Fortuner – 798
  13. Hyundai Grand i10 – 768
  14. Nissan NP200 – 749
  15. Hyundai i20 – 741
  16. Volkswagen Polo – 708
  17. Haval H6 – 642
  18. Nissan Magnite – 610
  19. Kia Sonet – 581
  20. Renault Kiger – 570
  21. Haval Jolion – 557
  22. Toyota Urban Cruiser – 518
  23. Suzuki Ertiga – 510
  24. Hyundai Venue – 481
  25. Mahindra Pik Up – 473
  26. Suzuki Baleno – 399
  27. Volkswagen T-Cross – 378
  28. Volkswagen Amarok – 358
  29. Chery Tiggo 7 Pro – 346
  30. Nissan Navara – 337
  31. Suzuki Jimny – 332
  32. Toyota Rumion – 323
  33. Kia Picanto – 314
  34. Ford Everest – 288
  35. Volkswagen Polo Sedan – 285
  36. Renault Kwid – 258
  37. Suzuki Fronx – 257
  38. Suzuki S-Presso – 246
  39. GWM P-Series – 228
  40. Hyundai Tucson – 209
  41. Suzuki Grand Vitara – 203
  42. Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series – 182
  43. BMW X3 – 177
  44. Toyota Land Cruiser 300 – 176
  45. Nissan Qashqai – 168
  46. BMW 3 Series – 159
  47. Chery Tiggo 8 Pro – 157
  48. Toyota Corolla Quest – 149
  49. Suzuki Celerio – 146
  50. Kia Seltos

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