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SUV sales in SA: Crossovers and uber luxury vehicles

2017-08-01 07:35

Lance Branquinho

PERFORMANCE SUV: Jaguar's latest offering, the new F-Pace will make a bold stance in the South African market. Image: Janine Van der Post

Cape Town - Traditional passenger car volumes might still be declining, as South African consumers adjust to disposable incomes affected by the country’s technical recession but there’s one market segment which is immune to local economic issues. 

Luxury SUV sales remain incredibly robust, mirroring the econometric logic that high income buyers remain nearly unaffected by economic malaise. As the trend of SUVs and crossovers replacing traditional sedans and luxury coupes has strengthened, some startling statistics are revealed in local sales data. 

Rise of the uber luxury SUV

Some brands who are introducing luxury SUV models are seeing total sales volumes double - the kind of business momentum management teams can ordinarily only dream of. Maserati and Jaguar, renowned for their grand tourers, ambitious supercars and storied motorsport histories, are the last manufacturers we ever expected would produce vehicles with five doors and sufficient ground clearance for gravel travel. 

READ: Best-selling Luxury SUVs in SA: Jeep takes the lead in June

Tradition is helpless to counter trends and with customer demand for high-performance gravel travel capable SUVs remaining insatiable, Jaguar and Maserati have had no choice. Despite howls of protest from loyalists, F-Pace and Levante have proven to be inspired product ventures for both brands. 

Extract the mid-year sales month data (June) and the numbers are inarguable. Jaguar markets F-Pace, F-Type, XJ and XE in South Africa. The SUV component of this product offering is now 55% of Jaguar’s total sales. An indication of the alarming extent to which this rampant demand for F-Pace has displaced the traditional vehicle configurations available, is that Jaguar sold 65 SUVs in June, and only 2 XEs. And they’re built on the same platform. 

                                                          Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Maserati’s numbers are lower but the proportional data similar. In the sixth month of this year it sold 18 vehicles in total, of which exactly half were Levantes. Like Jaguar, the presence of an SUV has doubled sales volumes, with an amazing stimulus on dealership and distribution health. 

The German brands had anticipated the rampant demand for SUVs rather expertly, and you now have product offerings where luxury gravel travellers outnumber sedans in Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s product portfolios. 

Crossing over

There’s no car business, without crossing over - anymore.

Data doesn’t lie and there’s a sense that without SUVs and crossovers, many of the most renowned marques we know, those once thought immune to the eroding sales influence of luxury cars with some semblance of off-road ability, won’t survive without adapting. 

Most fascinating of all is Toyota. Purveyor of bakkies, rugged SUVs and rather utilitarian sedans – you’d imagine the Japanese institution to be at peril. Trace the sales data to source, though, and there’s an astonishing discovery. Toyota sells more R1-million luxury SUVs than Land Rover, with its premium Range Rovers. Economic disorder is of no consequence to Land Cruiser 200 sales, where retail starts at essentially seven figures, in Rand. 

At just shy of 100 units a month, it’s an amazing business for Toyota, no marketing, exceeding loyal customers and a vehicle which remains more biased to serious off-roading than dynamic on-road driving (which is what its price rivals are engineered to do). 

When we take stock of the South African SUV demand and supply market midway through 2017, the data graphs are clear: without a luxury SUV, your premium brand doesn’t really have a future in the country of petrolheads and nearly infinite gravel routes. And almost unperceivably, Toyota is right in the game. 


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