VEHICLE export sales were "decimated" last month with a massive 75.1% drop in the sales of exported vehicles.
Vehicle sales figures for September were released yesterday by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa), which the association said "had been decimated as a result of the three-week strike action experienced at the manufacturing plants followed by industrial action in the automotive component industry".
The strike by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) at vehicle manufacturers started in August and lasted for three weeks. It was followed by a strike in the component industry, which is now in its fourth week.
Most vehicle manufacturers had to stop production due to a lack of supply of components.
Naamsa said yesterday the main impact on domestic sales of the prolonged industrial action had been relatively muted due to existing inventory levels and the fact that about two thirds of new cars sold in South Africa were imported.
On average domestic sales for vehicles sold last month had fallen by only 1.5%.
The total exported vehicles for all the South African car manufacturers was 6622 last month, compared to 19284 vehicles exported in August.
"The strike has had a devastating effect on the industry which accounted for about 30% of SA's manufacturing output," Naamsa said.
"The consequences of the prolonged industrial action would be felt by the industry for a long time to come. The strike action has damaged South Africa's status as a reliable supplier to international export markets and could well negatively affect future export contracts being awarded to automotive manufacturers," it said.
Some of the bigger drops in export sales by vehicle manufacturers in the Eastern Cape were experienced at Mercedes-Benz SA (MBSA) in East London and Ford Motor Company of SA, which has plants in Port Elizabeth and Gauteng.
At MBSA export sales declined from 5415 in August to only 130 last month. At Ford export sales decreased from 1903 in August to 938.
While Volkswagen Group of South Africa (VWSA) managed to keep its export sales for last month at 1582, close to the August export sales of 1902, the biggest drop in exports was between July and August since VWSA exported 4771 vehicles in July.
VWSA spokesman Matt Gennrich said both VW sales in the export and the SA markets were affected by the Numsa strike. He said the strike needed to be "resolved urgently since day by day it is affecting the company's international reputation" in terms of investor confidence.
General Motors South Africa (GMSA) was the only manufacturer that showed a minimal increase in exports, from 196 in August to 204 in September.
"We are still in the early phases of our ramp-up with left-hand drive Isuzu pickups for the sub-Saharan African market, and this has kept export losses at a minimum," GMSA's communications officer Lunga Ntsendwana said.
Nationally sales figures for the domestic market, continued to reflect modest growth. Aggregate industry sales of 54281 units for September reflected a decline of 1.5% or 812 vehicles from the 55 093 units sold in September last year.
The car rental industry again contributed positively to the September sales numbers and accounted for 20.1% of new cars sold.
Numsa workers in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro yesterday declined the latest wage increase offer from the employers.
The Retail Motor Industry Organisation is offering workers a 10% increase this year, 8% next year and in 2015, with a peace clause – which will not allow them to strike or make any demands for three years.
Numsa regional secretary Phumzile Nodongwe said they would ascertain whether other regions were accepting or declining the offer today.
"We need to persuade each other to accept the offer, but the workers do not want the peace clause to be included in the agreement."
Numsa said shop stewards would consult members on the revised wage offer and report back to the national executive committee today.