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Suzuki dethrones VW in South Africa

VW has lost its position as the second-best-selling car manufacturer in South Africa, an accolade it has held onto for many years, to Suzuki.

In February, the VW Group, which includes Audi, was a mere 112 sales ahead of Suzuki in the local market marking the closest the two entities have ever been to one another.

However, if we remove Audi from the equation which tallied 435 sales by itself, we can see that VW alone sold a lower 4,898 units thus putting it 323 units below Suzuki.

The same thing took place in January; the VW Group as a whole pipped Suzuki by 287 registrations, but when we take out Audi’s performance, VW lagged behind Suzuki by 120 sales.

With this happening two months in a row, VW can now be classified as, for all intents and purposes, South Africa’s third-best-selling automaker.

For a better picture of what has been transpiring in the market, the sales performances of the two automakers from the start of 2023 until now are detailed below:

Month VW Sales (excl. Audi) Suzuki Sales
January 2023 4,434 4,357
February 2023 4,724 4,309
March 2023 5,651 3,734
April 2023 4,217 3,620
May 2023 4,815 3,709
June 2023 4,963 4,335
July 2023 5,265 4,361
August 2023 5,415 4,332
September 2023 5,766 4,478
October 2023 6,081 4,480
November 2023 5,051 4,368
December 2023 4,811 3,355
January 2024 5,115 5,235
February 2024 4,898 5,221

VW in hot water

While things are on the up for Suzuki in South Africa, the same can not be said for VW.

The People’s Car has steadily been moving out of the budget-friendly segment in recent years with many of its vehicles now being considered mid-range or even premium, and it has consistently been losing favour in the eyes of car buyers in the process.

Its most affordable model, the locally-made Polo Vivo, currently sells for a minimum of R262,000. Just six years ago when it was launched, the flagship Vivo – in other words, the most expensive one you could get – retailed at R245,000.

In a similar vein, the T-Cross which is positioned as VW’s entry-level SUV now starts at R401,000, hardly classified as cheap by the majority of South Africa.

The Tiguan and Touareg, once considered affordable alternatives to high-end models from the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are now priced nearly equal to the vehicles they used to undercut by a significant margin.

In comparison, Suzuki has six passenger cars on sale for less than R250,000 – which by no coincidence includes two of its best sellers – and the absolute priciest ride in its portfolio goes for R542,900.

VW’s soaring window stickers, coupled with the country’s cost-of-living crisis and increased competition from badges such as Suzuki, have caused stalwarts like the Polo to no longer feature in the top 10 best-sellers list which is something no one would have predicted a decade ago.

Industry bodies such as the National Automobile Dealers’ Association as well as Bidvest have also highlighted this trend, but at an industry-wide scale.

In essence, they said South Africans are no longer going after brand prestige when buying a new car, but rather value for money; therefore they are not averse to ditching traditional manufacturers with elevated prices and opt for the more attainable newcomers.

In the case of VW, this phenomenon isn’t isolated to our market, either.

Chief financial officer of VW Global, Arno Antlitz, said that the brand expects to see slow growth in 2024 in the European Union amid a “muted economic outlook and intense competition,” reported Automotive News Europe.

VW does have a number of introductions in the pipeline for South Africa this year that it hopes will see it regain the share it has lost over the past few years.

This includes the facelifted T-Cross, next-gen Tiguan, and updated Touareg.

Additionally, it will bolster the Amarok and Polo Sedan portfolios with new engine options.

If, however, these vehicles fail to bring in the numbers they once had, VW may soon start slipping even further down the list of preferred brands in South Africa.

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