The continued withholding of fully detailed sales information by a substantial European-based participant in the South African market for commercial vehicles with Gross Vehicle Mass ratings of more than 3 500 kg, during the month of January, 2012, has made meaningful analysis of trends within the market and its prospects for the future highly problematic.

    This non-reporting manufacturer has provided only a globular January commercial vehicle sales total of 429 units, but as this also includes vehicles from the Light Commercial Vehicle market (Gross Vehicle Mass Ratings below 3 500 kg), it cannot provide any definitive inputs for the segments covered by this report.

    A total sales volume of 1 315 units was units reported during January, 2012 by those members of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) who have elected to remain within the full reporting system. The market composition was made up of 504 Medium Commercial Vehicles (GVM ratings between 3 501 kg and 8 500 kg), 232 Heavy Commercials (goods vehicles with GVM ratings between 8 501 kg and 16 500 kg), 512 Extra Heavy Commercials (goods vehicles with GVM ratings above 16 500 kg) and 67 passenger Buses with GVM ratings above 8 500 kg. (Please note that these volumes also include aggregated MCV sales recorded by Associated Motor Holdings and Amalgamated Automobile Distributors, which were made up exclusively of Hyundai-branded light truck models).

    Dr. Casper Kruger, Vice President of Hino in South Africa, comments: “In the absence of any detailed sales inputs from a group that plays a leading role across all segments contained in the South African market for trucks, buses and vans, it is only possible to evaluate January 2012’s market performance by comparing its result with previous months from which the sales of the non-reporting brands have been excluded. In a comparison with the equivalent January 2011 result, the total market returned growth of 16,1%, whilst in the comparison with the outcome for December, 2011, total volume sales declined by 2,4% ”.

    Kruger continues: “This initial evidence suggests that the market is likely to carry its recent positive trend into the early months of 2012. Although a fully detailed sales breakdown for December, 2011, and, by implication for the full calendar year, have not yet been published, the estimated final 2011 market total of around 26 700 units was somewhat stronger than had been anticipated during the early part of last year.

    It was generally accepted, during 2011 that well-financed operators had chosen to pull forward some vehicle acquisitions, in order to circumvent possible product shortages stemming from the March tsunami/earthquake in Japan, and to avoid paying the higher prices that were anticipated to follow the sharp decline in Rand foreign exchange value from August onwards”.

    “The 2011 market charge was headed up by a particularly strong XHCV segment performance throughout the year. The January 2012 result, which includes a market share of almost 40% for this category, suggests that demand for premium payload haulers has not yet dissipated, although the entry-level MCV segment’s market share, in January, was only very slightly less.

    However, with the absence of key data from the market statistics, and only one month of the New Year on record, it is still too early to draw any meaningful conclusions on developing market segmentation at this stage. It is important, however, to recognise the possibility that at least some 2012 volumes may have been pulled forward, by pre-emptive buying, into 2011, and, if this is so, the consequences of this situation may result in a measure of reduced demand as the current year unfolds ”.

    Kruger concludes: “The domestic environment for truck sales in 2012 is currently positive. The recent improvement in the Rand’s fortunes will remove upward pressure from vehicle pricing in the medium term, and there seems little prospect of any movement in interest rates until much later in the year.

    Fuel prices will also be positively influenced by a stronger Rand, although the present round of sabre-rattling in the Middle East does threaten continuing volatility in international oil prices, with inevitable downstream consequences for local consumers.

    Continuing uncertainty surrounding economic recovery in the United States and Europe has the potential to limit demand for South African goods, but Asia’s hunger for primary commodities is likely to underpin the country’s export performance in the year ahead”.