By on December 5, 2011

Over the last few weeks we traveled to South KoreaSwedenCanada and Romania. It’s been a while since we haven’t been to Africa, so this week I have decided to stop in South Africa.

If lions, rhinos and zebras are not exactly your thing, that’s ok, I’ve prepared 159 additional countries for you to visit in my blog, so click away!

South Africa is a production hub, and this has an impact on the best-selling cars there, on either side of the scale…

The South African market is in great shape in 2011: in November it is up 11 percent at 49,499 registrations and up 16 percent year-to-date at 526,223 units. Toyota and Volkswagen are masters in South Africa with the first one grabbing a 23.1 percent market share in November and the second one at 15.2 percent. Both brands produce in the country and the majority of their models sold in South Africa are produced there. They even export roughly half the amount they sell.

For Mercedes and BMW it’s a different story. The two German brands are respectively 6th and 7th in the manufacturers ranking, a very high position in itself, but interestingly they both export exactly twice as much as what they sell in the country.

As a whole, South Africa currently exports vehicles to over 70 countries, mainly Japan (around 29% of the value of total exports), Australia (20%), the UK (12%) and the US (11%).

Now to the best-selling models which is, as you know, my specialty.

Thanks to the new generation recently arrived in dealerships, the Toyota Hilux has reclaimed the title of South Africa’s best-selling vehicle it held since 2008. With 4,335 sales and an outstanding 8.8 percent share of the market in November, it even lodges the best score from any model in the last 7 years, and possibly ever but my data is not exhaustive enough to be able to affirm this with 100 percent certainty. Still, an amazing performance that augurs well for the new generation Hilux’s career in South Africa.

Now having the Toyota Hilux as the best-selling vehicle is far from extraordinary I hear you say, and you would be right given South Africa is estimated to be the 33rd country to be in that position. But with such a strong penetration it is up there with Thailand (where it is produced) as one of its strongest markets in the world.

Holding the pole position for most of 2011 and up until last month but now down to 2nd place, the VW Polo Vivo is an interesting exercise in low-cost by Volkswagen, a similar one to what Nissan is doing with the Tsuru in Mexico. Up until 2010, VW South Africa kept the first generation Golf, yes the one dating back from 1974, in the catalog with continued success. It was renamed the CitiGolf and ranked within the Top 10 during all these years with only minor changes due to its low price.

As the new generation VW Polo arrived in 2010 , VW stopped the CitiGolf production and kept the old gen Polo, a raging success in the country already (#1 in 2006 and 2007), in the catalog, renaming it Polo Vivo.

And it worked, even better than the CitiGolf in its time. The Polo Vivo was the best-selling model in South Africa for most of 2011’s first half…

…with the new generation Polo taking the 3rd spot!

Toyota is also strong in passenger cars, placing the Corolla/Auris #4.

Ford is also trying a low-cost solution in South Africa (as well as India) with relative success, placing the Figo, basically a stripped down previous generation Fiesta, #6 year-to-date.

Illustrating the low-cost/premium paradox in South Africa, the Mercedes C Class holds an impressive 7th place year-to-date in South Africa, nearly as high as in Germany, perhaps because South Africans have access to premium models at … relatively low-cost, having them produced there.

The BMW 3 Series ranks #10 so far this year.

South Africa November 2011 Top 30

Pos Model Nov %
1 Toyota Hilux 4,335 8.8%
2 VW Polo Vivo 2,270 4.6%
3 VW Polo 1,855 3.7%
4 Toyota Corolla/Auris 1,757 3.5%
5 Opel Corsa Utility 1,528 3.1%
6 Toyota Fortuner 1,222 2.5%
7 Toyota Quantum 1,210 2.4%
8 Isuzu KB 1,099 2.2%
9 Nissan NP200 1,096 2.2%
10 Chevrolet Aveo 992 2.0%
11 Ford Figo 965 1.9%
12 BMW 3 Series 825 1.7%
13 Mercedes C Class 825 1.7%
14 Nissan NP300 814 1.6%
15 Toyota Yaris 789 1.6%
16 Ford Bantam 760 1.5%
17 Nissan Micra 658 1.3%
18 VW Amarok 555 1.1%
19 Nissan Juke 526 1.1%
20 Renault Sandero 525 1.1%
21 VW Golf 520 1.1%
22 Ford Fiesta 442 0.9%
23 Ford Ranger 372 0.8%
24 Chevrolet Cruze 368 0.7%
25 Chevrolet Spark 366 0.7%
26 Toyota Avanza 356 0.7%
27 Mazda BT-50 352 0.7%
28 BMW 1 Series 349 0.7%
29 VW Jetta 339 0.7%
30 Chevrolet Optra 331 0.7%

South Africa Year-To-Date  2011 Top 30

Pos Model 2011 %
1 Toyota Hilux 33,947 6.5%
2 VW Polo Vivo 32,177 6.1%
3 VW Polo 22,390 4.3%
4 Toyota Corolla/Auris 17,787 3.4%
5 Opel Corsa Utility 16,126 3.1%
6 Ford Figo 14,194 2.7%
7 Mercedes C Class 13,330 2.5%
8 Isuzu KB 12,177 2.3%
9 Nissan NP200 11,320 2.2%
10 BMW 3 Series 11,061 2.1%
11 Toyota Fortuner 10,575 2.0%
12 Toyota Quantum 9,859 1.9%
13 Toyota Yaris 9,337 1.8%
14 Chevrolet Aveo 8,234 1.6%
15 Ford Bantam 7,431 1.4%
16 Chevrolet Spark 6,902 1.3%
17 Nissan NP300 6,897 1.3%
18 Chevrolet Cruze 6,770 1.3%
19 VW Golf 6,613 1.3%
20 Ford Ranger 6,427 1.2%
21 Renault Sandero 6,266 1.2%
22 Ford Fiesta 5,883 1.1%
23 VW Amarok 5,583 1.1%
24 Audi A4 4,826 0.9%
25 Nissan Micra 4,069 0.8%
26 Toyota Avanza 3,759 0.7%
27 Nissan Qashqai 3,716 0.7%
28 Mazda BT-50 3,376 0.6%
29 Honda Jazz 3,308 0.6%
30 Audi A3 2,938 0.6%

Now for the little nugget: South Africa is proving to be one of the most welcoming countries (with Japan, Finland and France) for the Nissan Juke: already #19 for its second month of sales in the country.

And there you go, just like that you have become an expert in South African car sales…

You’re most welcome.

You can see the Top 80 best-selling models in South Africa in November 2011 here.

You can see monthly reports for South Africa in 2011 here

You can see South African historical data up to 1973 here

Sales figures are sourced from NAAMSA.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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6 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: South Africans Buy Into Low-Cost Or Premium...”

  • avatar

    The presence of luxury cars in the top 10 has more to do with income inequality than local production; whites have an average per capita income five times that of blacks. Outside a few urban centers, few can afford cars at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually most luxury cars are entry to mid level models sold to business fleets. Many luxury cars are sold to black people who are benefiting from the governments drive to redress the wrongs of apartheid over the last 17 years.
      At least the motor industry is healthy and employs thousands of people of all race.

  • avatar

    Maybe 20 or 30 years ago that was true. However many, many white people have left the country. I think when I was there last year I saw more black South Africans in BMW’s than white ones. Come to think of it. I dont remember seeing many white people in luxury cars. I did see three big guys, looked like contractors, in something smaller than a Ranger. I dont think they were living the good life.

    The other thing about cars over there, you get tax deductions on car payments. Sort of like houses in the US. If you make $3000 per month, they can structure your salary. You can either get the say, $3000 per month, or they can give you $2500 per month salary and $500 for a car allowance. You dont get more money, but the car allowance is taxed differently. Pay a bit less tax, drive a bit nicer car. There arent many other deductions. Not many tax deductions on houses, children, charity etc.

    There is also a big income gap between most black South Africans, the VAST majority, and the new black middle class. There is a lot of reverse discrimination going on there against whites now. Companies just wont hire you if you are white. In some companies, to hire a white male, the position has to go all the way to the top and be approved by the board of directors.

    Read more:

    The South African Institute for Race Relations says this week that the young white men — aged 24 to 34 have mostly left the country now, and that there now are many more older white men than younger ones – when the reverse is the case in normal societies without wars.

  • avatar

    Love all that greenhouse on VW Golf Mk I.

  • avatar

    Something not mentioned here is that cars in South Africa are not cheap by any standards. Gas prices are high ($10 US / gallon), Insurance is high and credit is also expensive. It’s an interesting market because a large portion of the population can’t afford a car, those that can are forced into the budget area due to high costs.

  • avatar

    Crime is another factor in car sales, particularly of luxury cars. There are yards all around the country of cars that were stolen and crashed, many of which will not make it back onto the roads.

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