Johannesburg - The value of vehicles and vehicle components exported by South African manufacturers in 2009 was R33.2bn less than in the previous year.
This decline brings the value of last year's exports by the motor industry to R61bn, some 35% less than the record R94.2bn worth of exports in 2008.
Norman Lamprecht, managing executive for the Automotive Industry Export Council and the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, says the negative effect of the financial crisis on the motor industry's top export markets had far-reaching consequences for the South African industry's exports in 2009.
2009 can probably be regarded as one of the most difficult years ever for the South African motor industry, amid record declines in new vehicle sales, exports, and employment, he says.
Vehicle exports fell to 109 264 units from 174 947.
As a result of the global decline in vehicle manufacturing, the export value of vehicle components also fell 37% to only R27.8bn in 2009. This is from R44.1bn in 2008.
Lamprecht says that almost 10 million fewer vehicles are being manufactured globally. South Africa is one of the countries where sales have declined the most.
For the second successive year, the US was the industry's top export market with some R15bn in units exported there in 2009. Lamprecht says this is because, in terms of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), South Africa is one of 37 countries enjoying customs-free concessions.
The US is also tops in terms of vehicle-only exports: 55 433 units were exported to it. Britain, Algeria, Japan and Australia are other top export destinations.
Lamprecht reckons the first sales figures for 2010 are encouraging and vehicle exports are also expected to pick up this year.
Meanwhile, the importation of vehicles and vehicle components has declined. Imports were worth R29bn or 26.6% less. The contraction in imports caused a much larger industry trade deficit.
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