Where South Africa imports its cars from – TopAuto
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Where South Africa imports its cars from

South Africa imported a grand total of 262,281 new light vehicles in 2021 – an increase of 28.8% over 2020 – with the top country of origin being India.

Almost half (49.3%) of all passenger and light commercial vehicles (LCV) shipped into South Africa came from this region, according to the Automotive Industry Export Council’s (AIEC) export manual.

In addition, imports were responsible for 60% of all new light-vehicle sales in the domestic market in 2021.

Imported passenger cars accounted for 78.3% of all passenger-car sales during the year, while imported LCVs accounted for 18.1% of all LCV sales.

“Consumers in South Africa benefit from access to a wide variety of new models and a highly competitive pricing environment, as new vehicle demand in the country is met by a range of imported and domestically manufactured vehicles,” said the AIEC.

Top countries of origin

India is the top country of origin for South Africa’s light vehicle imports, not only by volume but also by Rand value.

“India has been established by several global brands as a production hub for entry-level and small vehicles, and most of the vehicles imported from India fell into these categories,” said the AIEC.

The VW Polo Vivo was the only car in these segments that were manufactured in South Africa, it said.

Chinese imports also gained traction last year, whereas German imports didn’t fare equally well due to the premium car segment remaining under pressure in the local market

In terms of the number of vehicles imported to South Africa in 2021, India is followed by Japan, China, Germany, and South Korea.

However, in terms of actual Rand value, Germany sits comfortably in second place partly thanks to high-end imports from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche.

The AIEC said the variety of new vehicles in the local market is a direct result of government’s automotive policy whereby manufacturers earn duty credits with which they can cost-effectively import low-volume models not manufactured in the country.

Therefore, vehicles manufactured in South Africa are mainly built for export in order for carmakers to obtain higher production volumes and generate rebate credits.

Used car imports

Used vehicles are not allowed to be imported to South Africa, unless it’s a certain type of vehicle.

“Strict control measures ensure that only a limited number of legal import permits are issued to allow specified used vehicles into South Africa,” said the AIEC.

Under the current legislation, used vehicles that qualify for import are:

  • Racing cars
  • Vintage and collectors’ passenger vehicles
  • Specifically adapted vehicles for persons with disabilities
  • Vehicles inherited by South African citizens and nationals
  • Vehicles driven by immigrants and returning South African residents and nationals.

Left-hand-drive imports are also not permitted into the country, said the AIEC.

A homologation procedure is then required before any vehicle, whether domestically manufactured or imported, can be introduced into the South African market.

“The homologation procedure of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) intends to ensure that all new vehicle models comply with the relevant South African legislation, standards and specifications, as well as codes of practice, before use by the public on public roads,” said the AIEC.

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