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Top-selling vehicles: SA’s unheralded bakkie heroes

2017-11-14 09:04

'We know Hilux and Ranger dominate but what of the fringe bakkie brands in South Africa?' asks Lance Branquinho.

Cape Town - Bakkies are the best-selling vehicle class in South Africa. Consider our mixture of gravel roads and explorable wilderness, it’s no surprise that the bakkie has come to pass as South Africans favourite vehicle.

For the small business owner, the artisan, farmer, mining or civil contractor… All of these aforementioned customers find greatest utility in a bakkie, and with the current market supplying a huge diversity of brands and derivatives, bakkie enthusiasts have never had it quite so good.

Rise of the bakkie market

Despite the bakkie market growing, and predicted to inflate to about 1m units annually by 2026 (hence the ambitions of a brand such as Mercedes-Benz to enter the bakkie business), not all bakkies sell that well. It’s a peculiar reality, as most bakkies are of similar size and configuration.

What is your favourite underrated bakkie in SA? Email and tell us why.

Only of late has there been a notable departure in design, with Nissan debuting coil-springs at the rear with its Navara, polarising an engineering breakthrough which Land Rover had featured for nearly three decades with its Defender bakkies.

That said, despite being so very similar in their fundamental characteristics, two bakkies absolutely dominate the South African market: Hilux and Ranger. Then there are other which compete for an absolute morsel of market share. And amongst them are some rather deserved, yet unheralded, double-cabs.

Fullback surges ahead

Foremost amongst the fringe double-cabs is Fiat’s Fullback. Now, Fiat is no stranger to South African bakkie retail. Its Strada compact bakkie was a credible rival to Corsa and Bantam in the mid-2000s, but Fullback is Fiat’s first full-size double-cab.

It is, of course, in reality a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton, and South Africans would appear not to understand the value proposition on offer. As such, Fiat only sold nine Fullbacks last month, compared to Mitsubishi’s 24 Tritons.

Value for the BT-50

Perhaps the most unheralded of all double-cab bakkie offering is Mazda’s BT-50. A twin of Ford’s wildly successful T6-series Ranger, ungainly styling has does BT-50’s market appeal no favours, but mechanically it is equal to any rival.

For those who can manage to look past its appearance, there is very definite value to be had – as can be seen by 57 rather clever customers who purchased BT-50s last month.

Indian bakkies

If you are seeking true barging pricing and utilitarian ruggedness, the Indian bakkies have always promised to deliver on both those customer requirements. Scrutinise sales figures, though, and it would appear that South African bakkie buys are not much interested in bargain prices for 1980s recycled 1980s technology. Tata’s Tecoline bakkie sold a mere five units in October.

Mahindra fared much better, with its revived and slightly more modern Scorpio accounting for 169 sales - illustrating that it is the dominant sub-continental bakkie brand in South Africa.

Of all the outlier bakkies on sale in South Africa, none is quite as stealth as Hyundai’s offering. The Korean automotive powerhouse is regarded as a city car and SUV manufacturer. South Africans never regard it, even in the slightest, as a bakkie brand. But with 337 sales of its honest and accurately named H100 bakkie, there is no doubt that Hyundai is South Africa’s most unheralded bakkie brand. And that’s a great braaiside factoid to win any bakkie argument with, when debating with mates.


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