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South Africa Vehicle Sales Gain at Fastest Pace in Three Months

South African vehicle sales increased at the fastest pace in three months in October as car rental companies expanded their fleets, an industry group said.

Sales rose 10.5 percent from a year earlier to 57,845, the Pretoria-based National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said in an e-mailed statement today. Growth accelerated from 1.4 percent in September.

Car sales were “supported by strong demand on the part of the car rental companies,” the association said. That helped offset the impact of strikes at vehicle manufacturing plants, which hampered production, it said.

Demand for rental cars has increased along with a rise in the number of tourists visiting South Africa. The country had 4.4 million visitors in the first half of 2012, 10.5 percent more than the same period a year ago, according to the Tourism Ministry.

Passenger-car sales rose 13 percent in October from a year earlier to 41,621, with rental companies accounting for 18 percent of purchases. Sales of light commercial vehicles, such as pick-up trucks and minivans, rose 5.4 percent, while heavy trucks and buses fell 3.2 percent.

Domestic sales will probably increase 10 percent this year, the association said.

“Negative factors that could influence the new vehicle market over the balance of the year and in 2013 include rising inflationary pressures despite subdued economic growth,” the association said. A decline in the value of the rand may push up prices, it said.

Vehicle exports fell 3.3 percent to 24,904 last month mainly due to a decline in demand from Europe, the association said.

RGT Smart compiles the data for the industry association.

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