South Africans bought 22 452 light vehicles during May 2017, a figure that reflects an ongoing trend of slumping new vehicle sales, with dealerships clearing 26 012 vehicles from their showrooms for the same month in 2016. The drop in car sales has largely been driven by economic uncertainty, which came as result of recent political events and the prospect of a credit downgrade.
Search volumes on Google, however, paint a different picture of the interest in cars in South Africa. This is what Hippo.co.za recently discovered when they did some research for an article titled The Most Searched for Car Brands in South Africa for their Car Insurance blog. Based on results from the Google Keyword Planner tool, here is a list, compiled in collaboration with Hippo.co.za, of the ten automakers with the top search queries on average per month:
The Top Three
- Mercedes Benz
Mercedes Benz may not be the most popular brand that South African consumers purchase but it is the manufacturer that attracts the most interest on Google. The automaker, which has a history of over 60 years in South Africa, currently rakes in an average of 90 500 monthly searches, in part focused on its A-Class hatchback model with 4 400 monthly searches, followed by the AMG GT Coupé and GLC SUV with monthly search averages of 2 400.
German luxury vehicle manufacturer, BMW, was the second most popular car brand as searched for by South African users. Its 3 Series putting it firmly in a top spot for 2016, with an average monthly search volume of 74 000. Google Trends pulled the most search queries from Mpumalanga, followed by Gauteng and the Northern Cape.
- Toyota and Hyundai
Toyota and Hyundai are a dead-heat when it comes to the level of interest from car enthusiasts. Both clock in at third place with an average search of 60 500 per month. Toyota took a big step forward this year when its Corolla, Quest, Auris and Fortuner models were among the top selling cars for January. Hyundai was also able to join the ranks as a car brand that offers affordability and good value for money.
An unexpected mix of standard and luxury brands
With many consumers feeling the pinch of the weak economy, it seems that search queries lean more toward affordability and fuel efficiency. But, which other car brands do consumers also find appealing? Ford has also turned out to be a hit with online searches, with 49 500 average monthly queries, followed by Volkswagen in the fifth spot with 22 200 average monthly searches. Kia, Renault, and Honda appear with 22 200, 22 200 and 14 800 queries submitted respectively.
It’s worth noting that a few models manufactured by Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Renault, and Honda have in the past made it onto a list of the cheapest cars in South Africa. Then there is also a report by Bloomberg that mentions the most fuel efficient cars, with several members of the Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, and Volkswagen scraping in a ranking.
The Maserati makes a surprise appearance on local Google searches, joining the party with 12 100 queries. While most South Africans are not able to afford this brand, the manufacturer unveiled the Ghibli model in 2016. This new sudan was launched as a more affordable model, to suit the lifestyles of both singles and families. The new release in South Africa could be the reason that the Maserati crops up in the top ten most searched for car brands in South Africa.
Google Search simplifies the way we look for and purchase our ideal set of wheels. However, search query numbers do not directly correlate to the number of users who actually purchased a car after making a search query; prospective buyers tend to compare features and prices online first. Picking the right car requires one to weigh one’s options in terms of the car that meets your needs and suits your pocket. There are currently many car models vying for market share – from family cars to hatchbacks to sedans – but it seems that a select few brands are already in South Africans’ good graces.
Bonus: The 5 Most Affordable Cars in South Africa can be found here.