"The economy sector of the market consistently accounts for 20% of the South African market, and is expected to reach 75 000 unit sales in 2005," says Arthur Boyle, marketing manager of Chevrolet South Africa.
"The segment is mainly price driven, and has for many years been the stronghold of locally manufactured older generation cars with minimal specifications."
According to Boyle, this traditional approach has recently been challenged by imported new entrants from especially Asian sources, offering slightly smaller cars with engines capacities around one litre, but with modern styling and up-to-date safety and luxury equipment.
The new breed of small cars has brought a range of standard equipment at prices well below the previously accepted lowest price point in the market.
"These more modern models, like the Chevrolet Spark, appeal to buyers who are being tempted away from the second hand car market by the appeal of a acquiring a new car at an affordable price but without having to settle for absolutely basic equipment levels and outdated dynamic standards," says Boyle.
This sector also appeals to a number of rather diverse customers, but with surprisingly common needs.
There are fleet owners who need basic transportation for employees or delivery drivers to get from point A to B in order to render a service.
There are students who require mobility and for whom typically the parents make the purchase, and who are most likely relatively inexperienced drivers, looking for reliable, easy-to-use urban transportation.
Then there are young couples, possibly just starting families, with "emerging" incomes, who want the peace of mind a new car can bring, but who need low operating costs to fit within a rather tight household budget.
And then there are retired couples, whose families have left home, who need transport independence, but for whom large cars are now unnecessarily intimidating.
All of these customers have a common set of needs - affordability, low running costs, reliability so that there are no service or repair bill surprises, and a good resale value when they need to sell their vehicle.
Over the last two years a number of distributors have been bringing additional value to their products without price increases, utilising the improved exchange rate.
"The Spark's stylish design and comfortable equipment levels come as an added bonus, and provide the differentiation within the sector," says Boyle.
"For people looking for something different in an affordable package, Spark rewards with great functionality, space and ease of use, in a very distinctive style."
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