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How many cars are exported from South Africa – And which brand exports the most

The South African automotive industry exports anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles every month, making it a valuable contributor to the economy.

There are seven different car brands with a factory on local soil, each one producing thousands of cars every year both for our market and to sell overseas to South Africa’s key trading partners, such as the United Kingdom.

How many cars are exported from South Africa

While the local motoring industry has been struggling with seven consecutive months of declining sales, exports are faring much better, with the most recent reports showing a very encouraging year-on-year increase.

In February 2024, the car manufacturing sector shipped a total of 39,517 units overseas – a 27% increase compared to the 30,409 units achieved in the same month last year.

For a better sense of how the country’s exports have performed over the measured period, you can consult the table below:

Month Exports
February 2023 30,409 units
March 2023 34,134 units
April 2023 30,756 units
May 2023 31,833 units
June 2023 27,296 units
July 2023 37,064 units
August 2023 41,462 units
September 2023 36,247 units
October 2023 40,302 units
November 2023 41,660 units
December 2023 26,612 units
January 2024 20,242 units
February 2024 39,517 units

Adding it all up, South Africa exported an incredible 437,534 cars between February 2023 and 2024.

Who exports the most?

The seven original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with a presence in South Africa are BMW, Ford, Isuzu, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and VW.

Pretoria in Gauteng is home to three different factories including BMW and Nissan’s facilities in Rosslyn, as well as Ford’s Silverton plant.

Toyota’s manufacturing hub is based in Prospecton near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, and the remaining three are all situated in the Eastern Cape, with Isuzu and Volkswagen’s plants located near Gqeberha while Mercedes’ is found in East London.

BMW’s factory used to produce the 3 Series sedan but was reconfigured for the X3 in 2018 due to the shift in global demand for SUVs. Mercedes-Benz, in contrast, is still using its local branch to make the C-Class sedan.

Ford builds the incredibly popular Ranger bakkie as well as the VW Amarok, as the two vehicles were developed as part of a joint venture between the American and German automakers.

VW’s own facility, meanwhile, develops the Polo and Polo Vivo hatchbacks and will soon become the only factory in the world to build these hatchbacks.

Isuzu is committed to its tried-and-trusted D-Max series, and Nissan’s facility is focused on its light commercial vehicles like the Navara and NP200 – the latter of which is being retired soon.

Finally, Toyota’s factory is not limited to one class of vehicle, churning out the Corolla Cross crossover, Corolla Quest sedan, the Fortuner SUV, the Hilux bakkie, and the Hiace minibus.

This is how many cars each manufacturer exported in February 2024:

Manufacturer Exports
VW 12,715 units
Mercedes-Benz 7,782 units
Ford 6,440 units
Toyota 6,022 units
BMW 5,500 units
Isuzu 577 units
Nissan 312 units

VW is by far the largest exporter in South Africa owing to how the Polo is still very popular in Europe, which makes for an interesting contrast with the local market where the hatchback has seen a slow but consistent decline in sales in recent years.

Nissan, on the other hand, has the lowest export figures which is likely a consequence of its main product, the NP200, being far more popular here than overseas.

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