The Ford Ranger reigned supreme as the country's most-sold model, with 20 156 units sold last year

The Ford Ranger reigned supreme as the country’s most-sold model, with 20 156 units sold last year


South Africans are an extremely loyal bunch—at least to car brands, that is.

According to the 2023 AutoTrader Car Industry Report, Toyota and Ford remain favourites among the car-buying public.

Toyota claimed the top position as the country’s most-sold used car brand with 60 296 units sold, while the Ford Ranger reigned supreme as the country’s most-sold model with 20 156 units sold last year, surpassing VW’s popular Polo and Toyota’s Hilux.

The report marks the 16th edition of a comprehensive analysis that provides insights into car-shopper purchasing behaviours and consumer buying trends. It includes new intelligence and data that highlight the sentiment surrounding car shopping.

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The report also offers a detailed exploration of the preferences and requirements of consumers actively looking to purchase vehicles.

The study covers the entire 2023 calendar year and examines more than 14 automotive brands, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Ford and over 21 distinct models.

Some key insights from the report include:

  • Digital Transformation: The car buying journey is evolving with consumers demanding transparency and convenience, leading to dealerships enhancing their online services like virtual tours and home deliveries.
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs): There’s a significant increase in EV sales, driven by advancements in battery technology and buyer incentives, indicating a shift towards more sustainable automotive options. According to the report, New Energy Vehicle (NEV) sales registered a year-on-year increase of 64.6% to 7,693 units by 19 brands in 2023. NEV sales breached the 1% share of the new vehicle market for the first time in 2023, comprising 1.45% of total new vehicle sales, compared to 0.88% in 2022.
  • Used Car Market Growth: Economic factors and rising new car prices have bolstered the used car market, with the report including used car sales data for the first time, highlighting an average selling price of R399,163.
  • Leasing and Subscriptions: Alternative car ownership models like leasing and subscriptions are emerging, potentially addressing gaps in traditional purchasing and financing options.

Looking at the South African automotive sector in 2023 and projections for 2024, the report highlights that even though the sector witnessed a notable surge towards full recovery, there was a sales decline with new passenger car sales negatively impacted in the second half of 2023, ending with 174 049 units sold.

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KIA SA CEO Gary Scott said macroeconomic factors have substantially impacted overall market conditions. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said:

Economic conditions play a crucial role in shaping consumer behaviour, and affordability continued to drive new vehicle sales in 2023.

“Original equipment manufacturers and importers offered a wide range of attractive vehicle incentives and discounts as downsizing purchases remained a significant factor.

“The South African vehicle market in 2023 therefore reflected the growing popularity of less expensive, smaller cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and crossovers, along with light commercial vehicles,” Naamsa said.

Talking about the challenges the sector is facing, VW SA says load shedding continues to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for growth in the automotive industry.

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It adds that a stable energy supply remains pivotal in ensuring that it can safeguard production processes from disruptions, resulting in volume losses.

Additionally, logistics challenges (dysfunctional rail freight service), as well as logistics costs (costs of road transport), are challenges as they make South African manufactured vehicles globally uncompetitive.

VW SA says the socio-political and economic issues, such as high unemployment, high inflation and the relatively weak economy have harmed affordability, impacting consumers’ buying power.

Naamsa also mentions:

Two out of three vehicles produced in South Africa are exported to global markets.

“Volkswagen exported 101 557 Polos in 2023 (over 3 000 more vehicles compared to 2022), so there is a great opportunity to leverage South Africa’s export potential. This applies to the Volkswagen Polo, which is the most exported vehicle from South Africa.” 

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VW SA says: “As one of the powerhouses on the African continent, South Africa should be utilising the potential trade opportunities that come with the African Continental Free Trade Area to create economic growth and forge strategic partnerships that will progress the local automotive industry and economy.”


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