SUVs now account for over half of passenger vehicle sales in South Africa

SUVs and crossovers are hot property at the moment, and car companies are tripping each other up trying to bring as many to market as possible.

Buyers just love these high-riding machines for their combination of practicality and fashionable looks, even if it comes at the expense of some handling finesse and overall stability.

Of course don’t expect to tower above traffic in your shiny new SUV because the latest sales numbers show that every second motorist is also buying one.

Figures released by Hyundai at the recent facelifted Grand i10 launch show that for the first time ever, more than half of all new passenger cars sold in South Africa were SUVs or crossovers.

Year-to-date in 2023, these accounted for 50.3% of the passenger sales pie, while hatchbacks were a distant second at 36.7%. This comparison excludes bakkies and other light commercial vehicles, which made up around 25% of the overall market last year.

As recently as three years ago, and the preceding years, hatchbacks were the best-selling body type in South Africa, accounting for a shade under 43% of passenger vehicle sales in 2020, while the SUVs and crossovers followed at 37.6%.

But these high-riders surged ahead in 2021, overtaking the hatchbacks for the first time with a 45.2% share, versus 38%.

Of course sedans have also come under attack from the SUV craze, having slipped from 10.9% of the market in 2020 to just 4.8% in 2023 year-to-date.

While estate cars have been a non-entity for years now, MPVs have actually gained a little traction in the past three years, rising from 7.5% in 2020 to 8.9% in 2023 YTD, led by affordable seven-seaters like the Suzuki Ertiga and its Toyota Rumion twin.

Coupes and cabriolets have been consistent if nothing else, accounting for just under 1% in both years.

Which SUVs are the most popular?

According to Naamsa figures, the Toyota Corolla Cross was the nation’s best selling SUV model in the first half of 2023, with a monthly average of 1,767 units.

It was followed by its Fortuner sibling, at 999 units a month, while the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro also made the podium with an average of 798 units, narrowly beating its Chinese compatriot the Haval Jolion, on 798 units. Volkswagen’s T-Cross took fifth place, at 692. Click here for the full list.

But while SUV sales are still surging, most of the action appears to be among the more affordable compact models, with the Fortuner being an exception.

It’s interesting to note that midsize SUVs such as the Toyota Rav4, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5 have lost market share in the past few years, with only the Volkswagen Tiguan still managing reasonable volumes at an average of 327 units in H1 2023.

While compact SUVs are gaining market share, the overall passenger car market is struggling at the moment, with July 2023 seeing a 9.7% year-on-year decline for the sector. Click here to read more about that and the list of top sellers.

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