Mixed Fortunes in February CV Sales

Sales volumes of new commercial vehicles (CV) in South Africa during February this year clearly highlighted the unpredictability of this market, a primary reason being its intrinsic reliance on the performance of international supply chains and foreign money markets.

According to Naamsa (National Association of Automobile Manufacturers SA), “The absence of Mercedes-Benz SA commercial vehicle sales data by segment rendered year on year comparisons difficult. The focus therefore, for the time being, would be on total commercial vehicle sales. In the event, industry total commercial vehicle sales during February 2012 at 15 999 units showed an improvement of 856 units or 5.7% compared to the 15 143 units of the corresponding month last year.”

While moderate growth is expected for this sector during 2012, the heavy and extra-heavy truck segments reflect increased year-to-date export sales figures with heavy truck sales up by 162.5% and extra-heavy truck volumes rising by 52%, compared to 2011. Industry-wide local sales volumes of these two segments were less impressive with year-to-date heavy truck volumes up by 1.6% and extra-heavy truck sales down by 12% on 2011 volumes.

The sales of new heavy buses locally remain slow but steady with 2012 year-to-date figures up by 4.2% on 2011, while export sales volumes dropped by 20%.

According to Bruce Dickson, Deputy CEO, MAN Truck & Bus SA, “The debt crisis in Europe is having a dampening effect on local buying patterns, despite relatively healthy fiscal conditions in South Africa. Fears of a global double-dip recession are no doubt behind the cautionary procurement decisions on the part of South African fleet owners.”

In the absence of full segment-by-segment sales figures from Mercedes-Benz SA, the #2 supplier of heavy commercial vehicles in South Africa, MAN’s detailed February 2012 sales figures offer an insight into current CV market activity by segment.

Strong year-on-year and month-on-month growth was recorded by MAN heavy trucks with sales volume increases of 130% and 53% respectively for February 2012.

MAN extra-heavy truck sales during February this year dropped by 25% compared to February 2011 but improved by 17% compared to January 2012. MAN bus sales volumes grew impressively by 19% compared to February 2011 and by 30% on January 2012.

“Looming fuel shortages and consequent diesel price increases due to political pressure in the Middle East are forcing customers to consider total-cost-of-ownership more seriously than before,” adds Dickson. “For the first time in history, diesel has become the greatest running cost component of a commercial fleet, surpassing payroll expenditure. As a result, fuel efficiency is now the primary vehicle purchasing criterion for fleet owners, followed closely by swift vehicle servicing and support turn-around times.”