The Volvo XC40 Leads The Way In South Africa As BEV Sales Show Good Progress in 2023

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Sales of battery-electric vehicles came close to breaching the 1,000 units per year mark in South Africa for the first time ever. Last year, 931 battery-electric vehicles (BEV) were sold in South Africa, almost doubling from 502 in 2022 and quadrupling from 218 in 2021.

Battery-electric vehicle sales in South Africa in 2023, Source: naamsa and Lightstone Auto

With only 1,955 BEVs sold since 2018, it’s clear to see that sales of BEVs have been slow in South Africa compared to similar auto markets around the world. This is due to the limited variety of BEV models in the country, coupled with the high import duties and taxes levied on electric vehicles. This means most of the vehicles available in the global market would end up being quite expensive compared to their equivalent ICE vehicles if they were introduced in South Africa. This price difference would be more prominent in the smaller vehicle segments, making it a bit challenging to sell those EVs. Taxes in South Africa are set at 18% for ICE imports vs 25% for EV imports. There is also the ad valorem tax for EVs which pushes the cost of an EV to more than 2X that of the average price of a new ICE vehicle of a similar make/model in most cases. This is probably why the majority of EV models in South Africa are the more premium models where the pricing is more competitive than in the smaller vehicle segment. Then again, people who buy $100,000 cars probably aren’t too worried about an extra $10,000.

2018 to 2023 battery-electric vehicle sales in South Africa, Source: naamsa and Lightstone Auto

There has been a slow but steady increase in BEV sales in the country, punctuated by a sharp decline in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. However, as shown above, sales are now really starting to pick up in South Africa as more BEV models come on the market. The star of the show in 2023 was the Volvo XC40 with 150 units, followed by the BMW iX3 and the iX, each with 129 units in 2023. Five of the top six models are all BMWs, which is understandable for such a strong brand in the country as well as being the early leader in bringing battery-electric models in South Africa since the first generation BMW i3 in 2015.  The other models in the top 6 are the MINI Hatch (Cooper SE), the BMW iX1, and the BMW i4.

2024 promises to see even more growth in BEV sales, as the upcoming Volvo EX30 has already received pre-orders of over 150 units. The recently launched GWM Ora 03 (Good Cat) is currently the cheapest BEV available in South Africa and should contribute to pushing sales. The BYD Atto 3 was also launched late last year and should add to the sales in 2024 as well. BYD is also set to introduce the smaller and more affordable Dolphin in the South African market, which should make things really interesting. All the other major players are also introducing some new models, and therefore as more models are added to the mix, consumers will have a wider range of options to choose from, which is great. There are models that were registered in 2023 that show a few units such as the VW ID. BUZZ with 4 units. That’s because these are units for a pilot between DHL and VWSA.

Another interesting thing to note is that even though electricity rationing is continuing in South Africa, the ever present load-shedding is not discouraging EV buyers too much. 2024 looks set to be an even bigger year for BEV sales in South Africa.

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