More South Africans are shopping for used cars than ever before

Besides the brand new Retail Price Index (RPI) revealed. The latest AutoTrader Car Industry Report, covering the period 1 July to 31 December 2019, reveals some fascinating insights into South African automotive industry – not least of which is the fact that consumers really like the idea of an electric Hilux! 

Given the fact that AutoTrader is the largest online motoring marketplace in South Africa – total searches in the period reached a record high of 179 million, representing growth of 35% year-on-year – AutoTrader serves as a sound proxy for consumer demand, supply and pricing within the South African automotive market.

The data is significant for the entire motor industry. The car buying process always starts somewhere and, for more than 90% of South African consumers, it starts online.

Used car sales grew by 4.9% during the period. More than 200 000 cars were sold in the six months ending December 2019. October and November recorded a combined total sales of over 73 000 units. These two months also generated the highest sales revenue – at over R10,5 billion each month.

Increased demand for EV’s

The AutoTrader Car Industry Report contains some surprises as well as some expected findings. Search data shows that while the vehicle in the number one spot is the BMW i3, the second and third most searched for electric cars are quite surprising.

In the second position was the BMW 3-Series. This is interesting because the 3-Series is not yet available as an electric car in South Africa. South African motorists are clearly ahead of the pack. An all-electric 3-Series is currently being tested. It’s one of the 25 electric models that the Bavarian automaker, BMW, plans to launch by 2023. The BMW has also long been associated with electric propulsion in South Africa, which could explain the search volume.

The third most searched for electric vehicle in the six months was Toyota Hilux. Even though the Hilux is not an electric vehicle, the data highlights that in-market car shoppers are still interested in this type of car and – even more so – desire an electric variant.

Diesel vs petrol consideration

While the electric car search data contained some surprises, petrol vs diesel cars were less surprising. The top three most searched for petrol cars were the BMW 3 Series, the Volkswagen Polo and the Volkswagen Golf. In contrast, the top three diesel fuel-type searches were the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and finally, the Toyota Fortuner.

Hybrid cars

In the hybrid car category, the top three searches across make and model were the Volvo XC90, the Toyota Yaris and the Toyota Auris.

While BMW dominated the electric car searches in the second half of 2019, it also gained ground when it comes to total searches. It’s evident that South Africans are extremely brand-loyal customers and so the top five most searched for brands – BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Audi – have not changed. What did, however, change was BMW’s share of the searches. 12% of all brand searches went to BMW, up from the 7% reported in the previous period.

Used Car Market similar to New Car Market when it comes to brand

In keeping with its highest new car market share in South Africa, Volkswagen once again took second place at 10%. Mercedes-Benz was placed closely behind in third place, generating 10% of total brand searches.

Not surprisingly, the most popular vehicle in South Africa – the perennially popular Toyota Hilux – was once again the most searched for model. It accounted for 4,7 million searches during the period. The BMW 3 Series – with 4,5 million – moved up one place to second spot. Yet another luxury German car – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – was hot on its heels with 4,5 million. It moved from fifth to third place.

In comparison, the top-selling vehicle in the period was the Ford Ranger followed by the Volkswagen Polo and Volkswagen Polo Vivo. The Ranger was previously in third place, the Polo was number one and the Polo Vivo was previously the second most sold car.

Used Car Retail Price Index

The latest iteration of the AutoTrader Car Industry Report now includes the AutoTrader Used Car Retail Price Index (RPI). The RPI monitors, in real time, the changes in used car prices. Used Car prices have risen by 2% in Q4 2019 over Q4 2018 the report reveals.

For more interesting insights, download the report here.