Sales of light vehicles continue to plummet as buyers increasingly turn elsewhere, either to larger passenger cars, small crossover SUVs or late-model used offerings.
Sales figures compiled by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that sales of light cars are down 20.8 per cent this year, compared to the overall market decline of 2.8 per cent.
This comes on top of a full-year decline in light car sales during 2016 of 15 per cent. At the end of 2015, light cars had 9.7 per cent market share. That currently sits at just 7.1 per cent.
Put another way, light car sales between January 1 and April 30 in 2015 were 36,578 units. Light car sales between January 1 and April 30 in 2017 were 25,655 units.
In descending order from the top-seller to smallest-seller, the drops in 2017 alone are:
Hyundai Accent (4996, down 6 per cent), Mazda 2 (3967, down 18 per cent), Toyota Yaris (3729, down 9.2 per cent), Honda Jazz (2230, down 26 per cent), Volkswagen Polo (2166, down 22 per cent), Kia Rio (1752, down 25 per cent) and Suzuki Swift (1338, down 59 per cent).
Some of these dips can be attributed to the launch of updates (Mazda, Barina and Yaris) or all-new versions (the new Swift is about to launch), but the trend goes well beyond this.
Trying to work out precisely where these buyers are going isn’t easy, given the market share of small cars – for example the Corolla and Mazda 3 – has also declined over the past two years, by a few percentage points. Meanwhile, sales of small SUVs are about on a par over this period.
This is despite overall market-wide sales growth.
One answer to what is driving this is late-model used cars luring buyers on a budget, especially as they get safer and more modern – relatively.
The idea is that more light-car buyers are jumping into small cars, but a number of small-car buyers are in-turn jumping into medium SUVs. This is being driven by relatively low and stable fuel prices and increasing value-for-money in both segments.
Whatever the solution, the continuing decline in light car sales has every chance of feeding itself, because car brands will be less inclined to spend marketing dollars on their light-car offerings – especially because there are tiny profit margins in them anyway.