Toyota SA handed keys to 9041 new-car customers in December 2012 to bring its final 2012 sales tally to 121 276, nearly one in every five vehicles sold in South Africa that year.According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) Toyota is the 2012 market leader, a position which it has retained for the 33 years. Toyota also reaffirmed its position as the largest vehicle exporter by exporting 5315 vehicles (26.9% of total vehicle exports) in the short December month.AGAINST THE ODDS Johan van Zyl, president and CEO of Toyota SA Motors, said: "Our sales success in 2012, amid local and international turmoil, previously unseen levels of competition and a slower economic growth, is a monument to the hard work of our more than 8500 staff, strong dealer network and network of service providers and component manufacturers.” Naamsa reported that 46 016 new vehicles were sold in December, slightly better (1.8%) than the corresponding month in 2011, but it did lift total 2012 sales to 623 914 for the year. This is an improvement of 9.2% over 2011 and it means that South Africa has seen three full years of consistent growth after sales declined strongly in 2007, 2008 and 2009.Van Zyl added: “Last year surprised even some optimists as new vehicle sales broke away and out-performed underlying economic indicators. Despite somewhat languid economic growth and international socio-economic uncertainty the market continued to steam ahead. A certain level of growth was expected as people returned to dealers to replace vehicles bought in the 2006 boom but it was lifted higher by record retail-level competition among dealers and higher-level competition among manufacturers." In emphasis of his views, Naamsa recently indicated that vehicle buyers now had a choice of more than 2100 models from more than 60 brands, a phenomenon almost unique to South Africa.Naamsa sales figures also indicate that car sales for 2012 were the highest since the vehicle sales peak in 2006. HILUX IS KINGThe local demand for Toyota favourites such as the Etios (1721), Corolla (581) and Fortuner (979) remained strong but it was the Hilux (2709) that was again recorded as South Africa’s most popular vehicle.Toyota’s Prospecton plant in Durban kept that city's seaport busy as it shipped 5315 right and left-hand drive Corolla, Fortuner and Hilux models to nearly 60 destinations around the world. Total vehicle exports grew by 3.5% to 269 461 in 2012 but that figure is expected to increase significantly in 2013 as some manufacturers ramp up production of new models.Van Zyl added: "In the coming year we expect that new model introductions ahead of the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show and continued competition will drive further growth. The rate of growth will, however, slow as it is compared to a strong 2012, leading to an expected growth rate that will be in the low single digits for 2013."