NEW vehicle sales surged more than 14% year-on- year last month, according to figures released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) yesterday.
However, this "exceptionally strong" figure was a result of extraordinary factors, and was not indicative of buoyant consumer demand, according to Chris de Kock, Wesbank's head of sales and marketing.
Year-on-year dealer sales growth pegged at just 3.8%.
"New vehicle sales at 55007 units registered an improvement of 6805 vehicles or a gain of 14.1% compared with the 48202 vehicles sold in January last year," Naamsa said yesterday.
It added that all major segments recorded double-digit year-on-year growth – new cars 12.3%, light commercials 20%, medium commercials 10.6%, heavy trucks 30% and extra heavy trucks 16.6%.
De Kock said the biggest contributor to the strong sales growth last month came from the rental market, which recorded 48.5% growth in sales compared with January last year.
This was a result of the likely demand for rental fleet to supply visitors to the Orange Africa Cup of Nations, Nissan South Africa's sales, marketing and after-sales director, Johan Kleynhans, said.
According to Naamsa, more than 22% of all new cars sold last month went to rental companies.
De Kock said limited growth at the dealers was still being driven by the low interest rate environment, and as a result of the depreciating rand.
"It should also be noted that the rand has been very visible over the last month, having experienced considerable weakness, with the result that consumers may be pre-empting a price increase in new models.
"The fact is that price increases are inevitable and the weakness in the currency will begin to feed through to the inflationary component on new vehicles," he said.
Exports also grew in line with expectations, surging to 17399 last month, or a year-on-year increase ofjust less than 50%.
"The momentum of vehicle exports is expected to improve further over the balance of the year and particularly exports of light commercial vehicles should increase substantially during 2013," Naamsa said.