Premium brands emerge largely unscathed from a trying 2019
New-vehicle sales in SA last year totalled 536,626 units, a decline of 15,601 units (2,8%) compared to 552,227 new cars sold in 2018.
Ongoing economic woes and lower consumer confidence are among quoted motives for the weakened performance.
Industry experts have begun casting their predictions for 2020 and the sentiment is of careful optimism with the outlook of a continued decline. Toyota SA’s President Andrew Kirby believes the market will end off this year with 515,000 units, a 26,000 downgrade compared to the previous year.
However, spirits in the premium and prestige segments remain cautiously high as 2019 numbers showed more resilience, and a stark reality of how the SUV has infiltrated the segment.
Speaking to Motor News, Italian brand Maserati’s Rens Rademeyer said: “Maserati's 81 total sales in 2019 remained on par with 2018, despite the discontinuation of the GranCabrio and GranTurismo models.”
The entry-level Ghibli sold 14 units while the model that fared the best was the Levante SUV range with a total of 58 sold.
With preparations underway for a new electric Maserati, Rademeyer says: “We expect a similar year to 2019, despite a general decline in sales for the industry.”
It’s a similar impression at LSM distributors, local merchants of the Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini brands.
“We are positive about 2020,” says Christo Kruger of Porsche SA. Global sales of Porsche grew by 11% in 2019 but the big news is where the SA operations are concerned.
According to Dr Manfred Braeuni, CEO at Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE: “Porsche SA sales of 1,496 units accounted for 22% of total regional sales, making SA the largest market in the region for 2019, with a 17% increase in new car deliveries for the same year.”
The new Porsche 911 netted 380 owners in SA while the equally fresh Macan recorded 522 sales, edging the larger Cayenne’s haul of 508 units. This resilience and predictions of a bumper 2020 is expected to continue, strengthened by the new quartet of 718 Boxster GTS, 718 Cayman GTS, 718 GT4 and Boxster Spyder models, which have subsequently arrived on local soil.
Bentley sales are expected to remain steady from the 69 local sales in 2020, of which the Continental range sold the most with 41 units. The Bentayga SUV sold 26 units while two units of the ultra-exclusive but now retired Mulsanne were sold.
Sales are expected to remain stable or better with the imminent local introduction of the new Bentley Flying Spur, which also becomes the brand’s flagship sedan after the retirement of the Mulsanne.
For Lamborghini, the Urus SUV was very well received in SA, with 41 units of the super SUV finding homes in 2019, making it the best seller despite its starting price of R4.5m.
There were also 13 Aventadors and five Huracans sold. The new Huracan Evo which has just gone on sale here is expected to add to the positive sales outlook of 2020.
German brand Daimler’s 2019 global sales stood at 2.3-million cars, representing a 1.3% increase compared to 2018, and also becoming the bestselling premium brand worldwide.
However, the SA division’s 14,498 total sales showed a 3% decline. Local Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Lebogang Matsoso believes the segment will stabilise in 2020.
The biggest seller was the C-Class with 4,595 units followed by the A-Class with 2,272 vehicles. AMG models accounted for 1,002 of total sales, with seven Mercedes-Maybachs for the year. An influx of new models will arrive despite the lower market expectations.
Audi had a relatively good 2019 in SA with a total of 8,703 vehicles sold, in spite of majority of its models having progressed through their respective product life cycles and thereby being older or aged in comparison to the competition, explained brand spokesperson Tashta Bhana.
She also cites consumer conservatism when considering a new premium sedan by either hanging onto their vehicles for a longer period of time or considering cheaper alternatives from VW to be more practical with their spending.
The Audi Q8 SUV sold a total of 141 units while the soon to be replaced R8 sports coupe attracted 25 new owners.
With the launches of the Audi A7 Sportback and new generation A6 range, this year will also usher in a facelift to the Audi A5 range, Audi S8, new RS5 Sportback and Coupe, and the high-performance Audi RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback models.
Lexus communications manager Thabo Smouse says the local division of the Japanese premium brand is committed to pushing its self-charging hybrid technology and hybrid strategy further in the SA market.
The company sold only 147 units here in 2019 but with an entry-level ES hybrid model already launched with more additions in the form of cheaper NX and UX hybrids, an LS hybrid and the arrival of the anticipated LC 500 Convertible to boot, this year looks promising for more sales within Toyota’s prestige brand.
BMW finished 2019 at the top of standings in the segment in which the BMW 7 Series, BMW X7, BMW 8 Series and BMW i8 compete, with the sales having increased by 152 units (8.56%) to 1,925 from 1,773 units sold in 2018. BMW’s 2020 prospects will be bolstered with the launch of the BMW M8 trio of Competition Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe models.
Ferrari sold 69 cars here last year, a big hike over the 29 units sold in 2018. The most popular prancing horse car was the 488 Pista which moved 22 units, followed by the Portofino (15) and the 812 superfast (14).
Daytona, local importer of Aston Martin, McLaren, Pagani and Rolls-Royce, does not report sales figures but the company says the sales trends showed an increase on all four of its brands, with Rolls-Royce sales boosted by the 2019 arrival of the Cullinan SUV.
Aston Martin’s order books were strong according to Daytona, with the new DBX SUV spiking interest in the brand and setting it up for positive outlook for 2020. McLaren too has reportedly seen year-on-year increases in sales with a growth outlook heading into 2020, more so with new products like the new McLaren GT that makes its SA debut this coming weekend.
What surely must be the unicorn of prestige brands here in SA, Pagani, delivered a Huayra Roadster recently, with a second being delivered in Q1 2020 — at prices of more than R40m a piece.