South African vehicle exports reached a record high in 2019, partially offsetting a decline in domestic vehicle sales.
Africa’s largest automaker shipped 386,863 units last year, up from just over 351,000 vehicles in 2018, data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa show. Exports were bolstered by increased output by assemblers including Ford Motor Co., which introduced a third daily weekday shift at its Silverton assembly plant near the capital, Pretoria.
While vehicle manufacturing is supported by accommodative policy and production incentives under the Automotive Production and Development Programme, it has failed to achieve the government’s production target of 1.2 million units by 2020. The industry produces about 600,000 vehicles a year. A revised APDP will take effect in 2021 and run until 2035.
Improved export volumes offset the continued decline in domestic sales of new vehicles amid sluggish economic growth. The number of new cars sold locally fell 2.8% year on year, marking the fifth decline in six years, despite below-inflation price increases and aggressive discounting by retailers. South Africa’s economy is stuck in the longest downward cycle since 1945.
The automotive industry, which accounts for 14% of South Africa’s export value, is the largest component of the country’s manufacturing sector and employs more than 100,000 skilled workers.