The motor vehicle and the associated vehicle components production industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the South African economy. A substantial 21.7% of value addition within the domestic manufacturing output was derived from vehicle and automotive component manufacturing in 2022, while the broader automotive industry’s contribution to the GDP comprised 4.9% (2.9% manufacturing and 2% retail). South African automotive trade amounted to R435 billion in 2022, and comprised 16.5% of South Africa’s total trade GDP, up from 15.8% in 2021. This is according to the latest Automotive Industry Export Council (AIEC) Automotive Export Manual 2023.
The AIEC says the export value of vehicles and automotive components increased by R19.8 billion, or 9.5%, from the R207.5 billion in 2021 to a record R227.3 billion in 2022, comprising 12.4% of total South African exports. Vehicle exports increased by 53,765 units to 351,785 units in 2022, up from 298,020 units exported in 2021, while the vehicle export value increased by R18.7 billion from the R138.3 billion in 2021 to R157 billion in 2022, the highest vehicle export value on record.
Automotive component exports reflected an increase of R1.1 billion from R69.2 billion in 2021 to a record R70.3 billion in 2022. The number of domestic automotive industry export destinations in 2022 was comprised of 152 countries, similar to 2021, with the export value more than doubling in the case of 29 of these countries from 2021 to 2022. The AIEC adds that the trading environment in South Africa is extremely competitive compared to global standards, and in 2022 there were no less than 43 passenger car brands and 2,513 model derivatives. Total new vehicle revenue, based on the available list price, amounted to R255.7 billion in 2022. Out of the top 10 selling models in 2022, seven were South African-manufactured models of which four were bakkies (pickups) and three were passenger cars. Here is a nice summary of all the vehicles that are made in South Africa.
The AIEC adds that vehicle exports registered a sound increase of 53,765 units, or 18.0%, to 351,785 units in 2022, from the 298,020 units exported in 2021. The 351,785 left- and right-hand drive vehicles were exported to 110 countries around the world in 2022. A significant 66.9% of light vehicle production was exported in 2022. Here’s the problem — essentially all of these exports are internal combustion engine vehicles going to Europe and other places where the transition to electric mobility is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, and some of these countries even have set deadlines to end the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles. In the United Kingdom, one of the major destination markets for SA-built vehicles for example, the plug-in electric vehicle market share in May was 23.1%, up from 18.3% year on year. BEVs have grown as well, while PHEVs have remained mostly flat. Overall market volume was 145,204 units, some 17% up YoY, though still below the pre-2020 norms. The Tesla Model Y was the bestselling BEV in May.
The AIEC says the European Union (EU) and the UK, as a bloc, remained South Africa’s largest export region in 2022, accounting for R133.2 billion, or 58.6%, of total automotive exports of R227.3 billion in 2022. Both the UK and the EU have announced a ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles from 2030 and 2035, respectively. Considering that 45.4% of the total automotive component export value, and three out of every four vehicles exported, were destined for the EU and the UK in 2022, developments in the region have a measurable and direct impact on the South African automotive industry. So South Africa really needs to step up the local production of electric vehicles for exports to the traditional key markets. It looks like there is starting to be some decent activity, which is a positive development.
Exports of locally produced electric vehicles for the period from January to April 2023 were up 85.7%, according to the latest report from naamsa. 1,740 passenger plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) were produced in South Africa. Although the report does not give a breakdown based on the vehicles produced in South Africa, most of these are more likely to be Mercedes-Benz C Classes. During the same period, 829 plug-less hybrids were produced in South Africa. These are most likely to be dominated by Toyotas. Still no full battery-electric vehicles produced in South Africa? Hopefully this will change sooner rather than later.
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