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South African vehicle sales fall 68% as lockdown bites

With exports down 64.1% year-on-year.
The five weeks of strict Level 5 lockdown restrictions hit the sector hard. Image: Luke Sharrett, Bloomberg

The slump in South African new-vehicle sales slowed in May as dealerships resumed some operations after a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was partially eased.

Domestic sales fell 68% last month from a year earlier, compared with a record drop of 98.4% in April, according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa).

The median of six economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey was for a decline of 86.3%.

A total of 12 932 vehicles were sold, of which 9 019 were passenger cars.

South Africa moved to restriction alert Level 4 from May 1, following five weeks of a strict Level 5 lockdown that shuttered almost all activity except essential services.

Resumption of activity

The partial opening of the economy allowed the sale of new and used vehicles to resume as well as exports and imports under strict conditions. Exports fell 64.1% year-on-year, compared with 97.3% in April, Naamsa data shows.

The industry body last month reduced its domestic new-vehicle sales forecast by 23% to 405 000 units for 2020, saying demand will continue to remain under pressure until there is greater economic stability. In the year to date, 130 762 vehicles have been sold.

“The impact of Covid-19 on the new-vehicle market and when the level of factory output will return to where it was before the lockdown will only become clearer once the entire motor industry becomes fully operational and prepares itself for the ‘new normal’,” Naamsa said on Monday.

© 2020 Bloomberg LP

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