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A Suzuki Celerio in a Suzuki dealership. Image by Remeredzai


Could South Africa Be Ripe For Chinese Electric Cars?

For many years, social trends and aggressive marketing were pushing the narrative of bigger is better – despite that, it might be the right time for the makers of small Chinese electric cars to make a move on the African car market.

Large gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks were the talk of the town in recent years. The Toyota Hilux pickup truck has been South Africa’s top selling vehicle for decades, and it still is. However, it seems compact vehicles with small 1- to 1.5-liter engines are back in fashion. For example, Suzuki Auto South Africa recorded a sales jump of 630 vehicles from April to May and hit a new overall record of 4,331 new car sales for Suzuki in a single month in South Africa.

The Suzuki Swift was South Africa’s best-selling vehicle in May with sales of 1,764 units (including the Swift Sport). The S-Presso (783 units), Vitara Brezza (530 units), Jimny (428 units) and Ertiga (305 units) completed the list of 5 best-selling Suzuki models.

Suzuki did even better in June with a new record of 4,622 units and appears to be cementing its top 3 slot behind Toyota (7,439 units) and VW (5,672 units). VW and Toyota also have popular small hatchbacks such as the Polo Vivo and the Toyota Ayga. The Toyota Ayga also has a 1.0 liter engine capacity. These small vehicles are very popular with rental fleet operators.

 Let’s have a look at the pricing and engine capacity of the popular Suzuki vehicles:

Record high petrol prices are straining consumers budgets, forcing many to adjust their lifestyle. Some families that would have traditionally opted for higher engine capacity vehicles are now considering smaller vehicles. There could be an opportunity to introduce more energy efficient and cheaper to operate small electric vehicles in South Africa.

Let’s look at some Chinese EVs that could be in a similar class:

*Prices shown are after doubling the price before subsidies in China to estimate the ballpark pricing in South Africa given the high import duties for electric vehicles in South Africa.

From the above estimate, the selected small Chinese electric cars could land at price points that are fairly competitive in this class. The lower total cost of ownership (TCO) associated with EVs will make these small EVs even more appealing, especially in these times of record high petrol prices.  If only we could get these kinds of EVs in South Africa sometime soon!

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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