In what could be seen as a sign of things to come, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the nation’s top-selling mid-sized vehicle in January.
The German luxury car — many of which are actually made in South Africa — outsold the locally made fleet-favourite, Toyota’s Camry, 651 units to 580. The Camry’s 580 figure compares to 4850 in December.
The Toyota generally enjoys more than 50 per cent market share at the lower end of the segment, but dropped off markedly last month because the company registered a huge batch in December as demonstrators, and is now clearing stocks.
The same phenomena occurred in 2016, where sales dropped from 5321 in December 2015 to 503 in January 2016.
Toyota has had to keep annual production high in order to gain enough scale to keep its Altona factory open until October this year, a goal it has now achieved. From November this year it’ll import a Camry from Japan instead.
Industry stats counter VFACTS splits the medium passenger market into two price bands — sub-$60k and above $60k. The Camry and Mazda 6 usually top the former, and the C-Class the latter.
The trend of luxury brands over-performing in the mid-sized car segment continued beyond Mercedes last month. The BMW 3 Series (270) was the third top-selling medium car of any type, ahead of the Ford Mondeo (251, up 41 per cent).
Behind the Ford was the Mazda 6 (250), just ahead of the Mercedes-Benz CLA (244) and Audi A4 (234), both of which outpointed the cheaper Subaru Liberty (210), Skoda Octavia (162), Volkswagen Passat (140), Lexus IS (117) and Subaru Levorg (109).
Smaller-volume players included the Jaguar XE (93), Kia Optima (73), BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe (71), Holden Malibu (57), Hyundai Sonata (37), Nissan Altima (35), Audi A5 Sportback (35) and Honda Accord (34). A mixed bag.
Medium car sales as a whole across all price bands dropped 11.2 per cent last month over January 2016, with a combined market share of 4.5 per cent — less than half that of the small SUV market.