GROWTH in car sales slowed dramatically last month, according to data released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) yesterday.
Total new vehicle sales grew by just 1.4%, to 55097 from 54357 units in September last year, the association said.
Naamsa said this was a result of, "in part, the high base effect since last year's September new vehicle sales represented a particularly strong month".
It warned, however, that "the tragic events at Marikana, together with the high level of industrial action in an increasing number of sectors in the economy, had dented business confidence in South Africa".
Naamsa also said it believed people were sufficiently concerned about the general economy to defer buying new vehicles.
"Consumers similarly would have been affected and concern about the macro socioeconomic environment in the country was likely to have resulted in a deferral of purchasing decisions."
New car sales grew 4.4% but this figure was not necessarily good news, as 18.6% of all new cars sold last month were bought by rental companies.
WesBank's head of sales and marketing, Chris de Kock, said yesterday that September was the first month in more than three years that loan application growth had dropped year on year.
"This is a leading indicator of future growth and indicates we are likely to see continued moderation through the final months of the year," De Kock said.
Naamsa, nonetheless, said there was positive news for the industry at large. A number of factors would continue to support domestic sales. These included "historically low interest rates, ongoing improvement in vehicle affordability in real terms, and higher demand for credit by households and businesses".
"The 0.5% reduction in interest rates would also support sales of consumer durable products, particularly new motor vehicles," it said.
Naamsa said it expected the industry to grow 10% for the year.