Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: South Africans Buy Into Low-Cost Or Premium

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier

Over the last few weeks we traveled to South Korea, Sweden, Canada 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

PosModelNov%1Toyota Hilux4,3358.8%2VW Polo Vivo2,2704.6%3VW Polo1,8553.7%4Toyota Corolla/Auris1,7573.5%5Opel Corsa Utility1,5283.1%6Toyota Fortuner1,2222.5%7Toyota Quantum1,2102.4%8Isuzu KB1,0992.2%9Nissan NP2001,0962.2%10Chevrolet Aveo9922.0%11Ford Figo9651.9%12BMW 3 Series8251.7%13Mercedes C Class8251.7%14Nissan NP3008141.6%15Toyota Yaris7891.6%16Ford Bantam7601.5%17Nissan Micra6581.3%18VW Amarok5551.1%19Nissan Juke5261.1%20Renault Sandero5251.1%21VW Golf5201.1%22Ford Fiesta4420.9%23Ford Ranger3720.8%24Chevrolet Cruze3680.7%25Chevrolet Spark3660.7%26Toyota Avanza3560.7%27Mazda BT-503520.7%28BMW 1 Series3490.7%29VW Jetta3390.7%30Chevrolet Optra3310.7%

South Africa Year-To-Date 2011 Top 30

PosModel2011%1Toyota Hilux33,9476.5%2VW Polo Vivo32,1776.1%3VW Polo22,3904.3%4Toyota Corolla/Auris17,7873.4%5Opel Corsa Utility16,1263.1%6Ford Figo14,1942.7%7Mercedes C Class13,3302.5%8Isuzu KB12,1772.3%9Nissan NP20011,3202.2%10BMW 3 Series11,0612.1%11Toyota Fortuner10,5752.0%12Toyota Quantum9,8591.9%13Toyota Yaris9,3371.8%14Chevrolet Aveo8,2341.6%15Ford Bantam7,4311.4%16Chevrolet Spark6,9021.3%17Nissan NP3006,8971.3%18Chevrolet Cruze6,7701.3%19VW Golf6,6131.3%20Ford Ranger6,4271.2%21Renault Sandero6,2661.2%22Ford Fiesta5,8831.1%23VW Amarok5,5831.1%24Audi A44,8260.9%25Nissan Micra4,0690.8%26Toyota Avanza3,7590.7%27Nissan Qashqai3,7160.7%28Mazda BT-503,3760.6%29Honda Jazz3,3080.6%30Audi A32,9380.6%

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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2 of 6 comments
  • Beerboy12 Beerboy12 on Dec 05, 2011

    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.

  • Grrr Grrr on Dec 05, 2011

    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.

  • Alan I do believe that traffic infringements penalties based on income will affect those who are financial able to flout safety regulations.When I drive above the posted speed limit I assess my situation using probability. If I'm confronted with a situation where time is of more value to me than speed I will speed if I assess the probability of a fine to be quite low. I can afford the fine, what I can't afford is the loss of points on my drivers licence.In Australia (12 points in QLD and all States have a point system) we have a points system attached to your drivers licence. An open drivers licence is granted 12 points every 3 years. So, if you receive an infringement for exceeding the speed limit it takes 3 years for the points to be removed. I generally get caught once every 2 years.I think a points system would be a fairer system over a system based on income. Its about retaining your licence and safety, not financial gain by the government.As you can see below it wouldn't take long for many US drivers to lose their drivers licence.[h2]Current penalties for individuals caught speeding[/h2]InfringementPenalty amountDemerit pointsLess than 11km/h over the speed limit$287. 1 pointAt least 11km/h but not more than 20km/h over the speed limit$431. 3 pointsMore than 20km/h but not more than 30km/h over the speed limit$646. 4 pointsMore than 30km/h but not more than 40km/h over the speed limit$1,078. 6 pointsMore than 40km/h over the speed limit$1,653. 8 points and 6 month suspension
  • Wjtinfwb Instead of raising fines, why don't the authorities enforce the laws and write tickets, and have judges enforce the penalty or sentence of a crime. I live across the street from an Elementary School on a 4-lane divided state highway. every morning the cop sits in his car and when someone sails through the School Zone well above the 10 mph limit, he merely hits his siren to get their attention but that's it. I've never, in 5 years, seen them get out of the car and actually stop and driver and confront them about speeding. As a result, no one pays attention and when the School Zone light is not lit, traffic flies by at 50-60 mph in the 45 zone. Almost no enforcement occurs until the inevitable crash, last year some zoned out girl rolled her beater Elantra 3 times. On a dry, straight, 4 lane road with a 45 mph limit. I'm no Angel and have a heavy foot myself. I've received my share of speeding tickets, lots of them when younger. Traffic enforcement in most locales has become a joke these days, jacking prices because someone has a higher income in as asinine as our stupid tax policy and non-existent immigration enforcement.
  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.