Vehicle sales have commenced: How day one went

Many stay away while brave few head out in search of new cars

15 May 2020 - 16:48
By Phuti Mpyane
Dealers started opening their doors this week after the relaxation of restrictions in level 4 of lockdown.
Image: Denis Droppa Dealers started opening their doors this week after the relaxation of restrictions in level 4 of lockdown.

On May 14 2020, the 50th day of the nationwide lockdown implemented to slow the coronavirus pandemic, the public was allowed to emerge from their homes to visit car dealerships to purchase or service vehicles.

Despite the easing of restrictions during lockdown level 4, stringent preventative measures including the wearing of face masks, hand sanitisers in place and social distance observed still prevail.

What happened on the first day?

From a dealer visit perspective, reports suggest buyers have trickled in but their numbers were insignificant. However business continues, with a dealer in the south of Johannesburg confirming completed deliveries of new cars to a fleet buyer and at least one to a private buyer.

Another dealer reported an encouraging number of people flowing through its doors to view cars, and more had arrived to have their vehicles serviced.

Test drives are possible but will need to be pre-arranged with a dealer to enable time to prepare safety measures.

This signifies that despite the respite, many would-be buyers have opted to stay away, tending to agree with government advice that they do their vehicle shopping online.

What of online car shopping then?

According to Hannes Oosthuizen, experience manager at, there is some change in traffic on their website search patterns.

“We experienced the biggest lead searches on the first day since pre-lockdown days,” said Oosthuizen.

He said the search patterns also reflected those of the past, with the top 10 searched cars like the BMW 3 Series, VW Polo and Toyota Hilux remaining popular searches.

Oosthuizen said they have been receiving calls from would-be buyers seeking clarification on which dealers advertising on their site are open for business, and if they are prepared in terms of preventative measures against the virus.

This prompted the team to develop a snap survey among the inquiries.

The results revealed regular patterns while others were startling.

Of all of those surveyed, 55% said the effects of Covid-19 and the lockdown, including a dangerously depressed economy, hasn’t stopped them from buying a car.

Some 20% of those polled said they are looking for a more affordable car, confirming earlier findings that losses of employment due to companies shutting down has severely dented a lot of household disposable income, and seen through a surge of online searches for cars under R50,000.

A total of 11.8% said they are choosing caution and are not buying cars until the corona dust settles.

In a completely unexpected turn of events, 12% mentioned they are pressing on with buying cars to ensure continued social distancing after lockdown. Could this be a signal that public transport is about to lose passengers?

Another online platform,, discovered much of the same in buying trends, particularly the rise in searches for vehicles under R200,000.

The under R50,000 trend is still in the lead under relaxed lockdown protocols, but the site’s monitoring systems have also picked up another interesting buyer trend.

George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, said: “We have observed that, since the commencement of level 4 lockdown, South African search patterns on AutoTrader have changed to suit the economic opportunities. 

“From January 1 to April 28, van searches were on a downward trend. However, following the announcement of the guidelines for level 4, which includes activity such as food delivery, searches for these vehicles have more than doubled,” said Mienie.

The Volkswagen Caddy is currently both the most-searched-for and also the most sold small van. It attracts an average price of R46,085 versus the second most-searched-for and sold, which is the Toyota Avanza panel van. The Toyota Quantum is both the most-searched-for and also the most sold large van, while the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is also a prime search.