The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector - April 2020 By Dr Martyn Davies and Mike Vincent - Deloitte

The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector - April 2020 By Dr Martyn Davies and Mike Vincent - Deloitte
The Impact of
COVID-19 on the
South African
Automotive Sector
April 2020
By Dr Martyn Davies and Mike Vincent
The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector - April 2020 By Dr Martyn Davies and Mike Vincent - Deloitte
The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector

With over 80% of the global economy               The global picture
currently in some form of lockdown                In line with strict government-led social
and rolling blows to economic activity            and economic shutdowns, most original
as more countries are put into lockdown,          equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are
it is common cause that the world has             shuttering their manufacturing plants
not faced a pandemic of this scale in             across Europe, North America and South
recent times.1                                    Africa. As a result of these shutdowns,
                                                  Moody’s has predicted that global demand
Many analyst forecasts indicate that the          for passenger vehicles will shrink by
global economy will fall into recession as        approximately 14% in 2020.8
growth grinds to a halt in many countries,
financial conditions tighten sharply and          Based on Moody’s forecast, this would
labour markets deteriorate. Goldman               translate into a reduction of over
Sachs, for example, expects the world             13.5 million passenger vehicles not being
economy will contract by 1%. This is a            manufactured in 2020. These figures
larger decline than during the 2008-09            may even be on the conservative side,
financial crisis.2                                depending on when and to what extent
                                                  consumers are willing to spend, as well as
Already, COVID-19 has had a major                 when industries are able to restart.
impact on China. Industrial output fell by                                                       Many analyst forecasts
13.5% y-o-y over the months of January            In line with this dramatic forecast slump,     indicate that the global
and February, retail sales contracted by          Moody’s has downgraded a number of the
20.5%, fixed investment by 24.5% and real         global auto OEMs including BMW (to A2),
                                                                                                 economy will fall into
estate investment by 16.3% over the same          Ford (Ba2), Toyota (Aa3), Honda (A2), and      recession as growth grinds
period. The COVID-19 pandemic impact on           Nissan (Baa3). The ratings agency has also     to a halt in many countries,
business is immediate and severe and no           put under review other leading auto firms
country or industry will be spared.3              such as Daimler, JLR, PSA Group, Renault,      financial conditions tighten
                                                  VW, Volvo and McLaren Holdings.9               sharply and labour markets
The importance of the South African
automotive sector                                 VW Group has revealed that it is already
                                                                                                 deteriorate. Goldman Sachs,
The automotive cluster is an important            burning through €2bn per week following        for example, expects the
industrial sector in South Africa. The            its plant closures and the collapse in
                                                                                                 world economy will
broader automotive sector accounted               demand.10
for 6.8% of gross domestic product (GDP)                                                         contract by 1%. This is a
in 2018.4                                         These dire forecasts are unprecedented.        larger decline than during
                                                  In comparison, following the post-Lehman
Considering that the overall figure for           Brothers financial shock from September        the 2008-09 financial crisis.
manufacturing value added as a share              2008, the automotive demand declined
of GDP stood at 11.76% in 2018,5 the auto         roughly 8% over a two-year period.11
industry accounts for a significant chunk
of South Africa’s entire manufacturing            Governments step in
capacity. Automotive manufacturing                Considering the scale of industrial
furthermore employs 110 000 directly              destruction, the situation globally requires
and indirectly, with the broader automotive       immediate support and enablement
sector accounting for 457 000 jobs.6 It is        from governments. It is imperative that
the only manufacturing sector that has            wages are protected and that consumers
shown notable progress, supported                 are given as much support as possible
by proactive industrial policy from the           in order to minimise a long-term and
Government.7                                      protracted decline in demand. Some
                                                  market commentators are already warning
The continuity of the South African               of a “lost decade” for the auto industry.12
automotive sector is thus critical to the         But the real challenge lies in maintaining
future industrial and economic landscape          demand after factories are able to re-open,
of the country.                                   and this rests with the consumer.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector

The British Government will provide                      Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)        provide support for the wider automotive
funding of up to 80% of employees’                       will make available R3bn for wider industrial   ecosystem in the economy. In the coming
monthly salaries up to a maximum of                      funding for South African companies but         weeks it will become clearer as to how
£2 500. For employees of auto dealerships,               there is doubt that these monies will make      much deeper the Government will have
the Government will reimburse up to 80%                  their way into the OEMs in light of their       to dig into its pockets to support a pillar
of salaries if their jobs are “at risk”.13               foreign ownership.                              industry of the economy.

In the United States, no dedicated auto                  The newly created Automotive Industry           With suppressed demand ahead, lost
sector support measures are in place,                    Transformation Fund (AITF) – currently          production will not recover. The three-week
but the auto OEMs and suppliers will                     capitalised to the tune of R6bn – with a        forced closure in South Africa will in effect
likely benefit from industry-wide liquidity-             mandate to support black participation in       be longer due to reduced inventories.
boosting measures aimed to shore-up                      the automotive supply chain could serve as      The challenge is that it will prove difficult
consumer spending.                                       a support mechanism for the industry over       for auto companies to pay full salaries
                                                         the medium term.                                beyond the official three-week shutdown
In France, the Minister of Finance Bruno                                                                 if production is not restarted soon.
Le Maire stated last week that “[…] sectors              The health and durability of the
like the aeronautical sector and automobile              components firms is tied to the OEMs            In light of depressed production volumes,
sector […] need support today. It won’t                  which need to restart production as             the Automotive Investment Scheme
systemically be nationalisation; it could                soon as possible. If OEMs can restart, the      (AIS) – an incentive that both OEMs and
be recapitalisation.” President Emmanuel                 supply chain will be able to recover quickly,   component manufacturers enjoy under
Macron further said “We won’t let industrial             depending, of course, on the health and         the APDP – will have to be renegotiated
champions disappear in smoke because                     wellbeing of its workforce. The experience      between industry and the Department
there is a crisis unprecedented since                    of the automotive components sector and         of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC).
1929.”14                                                 its robustness was evident in Japan after       The AIS requires OEMs to achieve a
                                                         the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Honda,          minimum of 50 000 units produced
Government support in South Africa                       for example, was one Japanese OEM able          per annum within three years, with
The South African Government is                          to restart domestic production about one        component supply manufacturers also
contemplating establishing a “National                   month following the disaster.16                 benefitting from this link to the production
Disaster Benefit” fund that could potentially                                                            value chain.17
draw from the R30bn capitalised                          Current announced measures in South
Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).15 The                 Africa may, however, not be sufficient to

Figure 1. South Africa’s passenger                       Figure 2. South Africa’s light truck            The British Government
vehicle production by volume (2019)                      production by volume (2019)
                                                                                                         will provide funding of
                                                                  Isuzu, 7%          BAIC, 2%            up to 80% of employees’
                                                                    18 746
       20%                                                                            4 757
                                                                                                         monthly salaries up
      69 524
                                                                                                         to a maximum of £2
                                                                                                         500. For employees of
                                       153 239           Ford, 36%
                                                          91 968
                                                                                           103 638       auto dealerships, the
    86 414                                                                                               Government will reimburse
                                                               Kia, 1%
                                                                                                         up to 80% of salaries if
         3 834        29 654                                   2 905            13%                      their jobs are “at risk”.
                                                                               32 836

Source: Deloitte calculations based on Marklines, 2019

The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector

More a demand-side, less a supply-side                 local auto industry. Exports were already       Africa are responsible for the sub-Saharan
problem                                                under pressure in February showing a            African market and these businesses are
The real difficulty will be to address                 year-on-year decline of 8.4% (30 832 units)     continuing for now, but are likely to be
the demand side, both locally and                      compared to the same month a year ago.20        curtailed in the coming days and weeks.
internationally. Last year, 386 863 vehicles           With global demand having plummeted             Exports of built-up vehicles to the rest of
were exported from South Africa – an                   in March, this does not bode well for the       Africa amounted to 22 998 units in 2019
annual record with growth over 10%                     short term. Looking over the horizon, in        with the leading markets being Ghana,
compared to 2018. Exports of passenger                 all likelihood the APDP’s manufacturing         Kenya and Zimbabwe and Mozambique.22
cars registered a substantial gain of 17.7%            target of 1.4 million vehicles by 2035 is now   The adverse impact on the hospitality and
that year.18                                           in jeopardy and much will depend on the         tourism sectors will also impact vehicle
                                                       global economy’s medium-term recovery.21        sales given the sizeable contribution that
Exports constituted 61.25% of total                                                                    the car rental industry makes to new car
production, bringing in R114bn in                      According to Mike Whitfield, Chairman of        sales. For example, this was 16% of new
2018.19 There is a sizeable and growing                Nissan Africa and Managing Director of          car sales in February, given stocking up in
dependence on the export market by the                 Nissan Egypt, OEMs based out of South           expectation of the coming Easter vacation
                                                                                                       period. In the short term, car rental firms
                                                                                                       will be dumping over 30 000 cars in the
Figure 3. South Africa’s top 10 vehicle export markets by volume (2019)                                domestic market in line with their fleet
                                                                                                       utilisation models, further compounding
                                                                                                       the challenges being faced by the OEMs’
                     Rest of world                                                                     manufacturing lines.
                                                                                                       Altogether, the local market has been
           Botswana                                                                                    suppressed for a number of years already,
            Australia 2%
              France                                                                                   with sales declining by 2.8% last year (536
                Namibia        3%                                 42%     Germany                      626 units sold; see figure 4). It is highly
                                                                                                       likely that domestic sales forecast for
                        USA 4%
                                4%                                                                     2020 will be significantly less with analysts
                         Spain    4%                                                                   forecasting this in the region of 450 000
                            Japan                                                                      units. The most recent sales figures
                                             9%     10%
                                                                                                       released for March 2020 indicate that new
                                                         Belgium                                       vehicle sales have dropped 30% compared
                                                                                                       with the same month in 2019.23
Source: Deloitte calculations based on The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition data
                                                                                                       With the collapse in demand and a very
                                                                                                       uncertain outlook, the auto industry will
Figure 4. Vehicle sales in South Africa, number of units sold (2009-20f)                               undergo rapid consolidation.

Source: NAAMSA, Fitch Solutions, 2020
The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector

Respond, recover, thrive
The automotive industry is already
grappling with rapid change and disruption:
congested cities with inadequate
infrastructure deterring car purchasing;
technological shifts toward embracing
new battery elective vehicle (BEV) power;
and the rise of new competitors moving
into the mobility industry. And now it faces
an unprecedented economic crisis that is
rapidly unfolding.

The global auto industry may face
significant disruption and wide-sweeping
restructuring. As per conversations with
CEOs, the two major priorities at the
moment are their people’s well-being and
raising cash for their business.

OEMs will be forced to adjust to a
suppressed market by right-sizing their
cost base. “Undoubtedly, there will be a
different automotive sector coming out of
this,” says Whitfield.24

But the example of China’s emerging               If Governments can take drastic action         important than elegance. Stabilising the
consumer and industrial recovery holds            to “flatten the curve” of infection rates      business will be critical. This will include
out hope. 80% of global car production            at an early stage, this results in a quicker   identifying organisational vulnerabilities
involves “Made in China” parts. The Chinese       suppression of the outbreak. The above-        and securing business continuity and
economy is now cautiously reopening and           mentioned study evaluated the 1918-20          financing.
economic activity reviving.                       influenza pandemic and found that swift
                                                  action 10 days prior to the onset of the       In time, the world will start emerging from
Of VW’s 33 plants in China, only two remain       pandemic increased manufacturing               the constraints of COVID-19 and the next
closed, albeit at reduced utilisation.25          employment by roughly 5% in the                challenge will revolve around recovery
Car sales in China dropped by 80% in              post-pandemic period. Implementing             plans including ramping up the return of
February26 (the greatest contraction on           restrictions beyond this for an additional     employees, managing claims and contract
record) but are expected to pick up with          50 days increased manufacturing                dispute resolution, collaborating with
VW expecting sales to reach 1 million in          employment by 6.5% after the pandemic          customers and suppliers to synchronise
March.27 Figures to be released in the            subsided.30                                    operations and reviewing orders versus
coming days will reveal the extent of China’s                                                    commitments and inventory.
economic normalisation. China now offers          This is clearly a case of willful short-term
hope and lessons28 for other countries            pain to avoid longer-term structural           Many businesses will have identified the
grappling with the COVID-19 scourge.              damage to the industry. The outcome may        value of a digital future and new ways of
                                                  still be uncertain, but the South African      working. This future promises improved
A recent study by authors affiliated to the       automotive industry must be protected at       efficiencies, cost out and quicker response
US Federal Reserve Board, the Federal             all cost.                                      times. Thriving in the next normal will
Reserve Bank of New York, and MIT Sloan                                                          be for those businesses who see these
School of Management suggests that there          What should the response of auto               convulsive changes as opportunities not to
is not a tradeoff between suppressing the         executives be?                                 be missed.
virus and economic activity. Instead, the         COVID-19 is having a major impact on the
act of suppressing the virus ultimately           whole business ecosystem. In the short
leads to improved economic activity. This is      term, businesses will need to respond to
consistent with what we are now seeing in         the immediate challenges of the COVID-19
China.29                                          lockdown where speed will be more

The Impact of COVID-19 on the South African Automotive Sector

Endnotes                                                10 Financial Times, 2020. VW hit by €2bn-a-week         21 Department of Trade, Industry and
1   Fitch Solutions, 2020. Covid-19 Recession: Three       cash drain. Available [Online]: https://www.            Competition, 2019. Geared for Growth: South
    Downside Scenarios for the Global Economy.                    Africa’s automotive industry masterplan to
                                                           0a834e8ea57f                                            2035. Available [Online]:
2   See for example, Daily Maverick, 2020. How
                                                        11 IT-Online, 2020. Covid-19 spares nobody: the            za/news2019/SA_Auto_Masterplan.pdf
    much could Coronavirus cost the SA economy?
    A preliminary estimate. Available [Online].            mobility impacts of a global pandemic. 27            22 Telephonic interview with Mike Whitfield on          March 2020. Available [Online]. https://it-online.      27 March 2020.
    03-27-how-much-could-coronavirus-cost-the-            23 Engineering News, 2020. New-vehicle sales
    sa-economy-a-preliminary-estimate/                     mobility-impacts-of-a-global-pandemic/                  plummet by 30%. 1 April 2020. Available
3   Fitch Solutions, 2020: Covid-19 Growth              12 Fortune, 2020. Europe’s auto factories                  [Online]. https://www.engineeringnews.
    Revisions: Tracking Lower.                             are closing. Experts fear a lost decade is    
                                                           coming. Available [Online]: https://fortune.            by-30-2020-04-01/rep_id:4136
4   The broader automotive sector includes both
                                                           com/2020/03/17/coronavirus-impact-                   24 Telephonic interview with Mike Whitfield on
    manufacturing and retail activity. The National
                                                           shutdown-european-auto-sector-volkswagen/               27 March 2020.
    Association of Automobile Manufacturers
    of South Africa (NAAMSA), 2020. NAAMSA              13 The Guardian, 2020. UK government to                 25 Financial Times, 2020. VW hit by €2bn-a-week
    Commentary. Available [Online]. https://www.           pay 80% of wages for those not working in               cash drain. Available [Online]: https://www.                                coronavirus crisis. Available [Online]: https://
5   World Bank, 2019. World Development
    Indicators database. Available [Online]: https://                                                           26 Financial Times, 2020. Coronavirus: Chinese
                                                           sunak                                                                      carmakers struggle with disruption. Available
    ZS?locations=ZA&view=chart                          14 Bloomberg, 2020. France Points to Aeronautics,          [Online]:
                                                           Car Sectors as Priorities for Help. Available           b5392370-53b6-11ea-8841-482eed0038b1
6   Fin24, 2019. A look at SA’s auto manufacturing
    industry. Available [Online]: https://www.                                                                  27 Financial Times, 2020. VW hit by €2bn-a-week
                                                           news/articles/2020-03-24/france-points-to-                                                                      cash drain. Available [Online]: https://www.
    industry-20190712                                   15 Bloomberg, 2020. South Africa Contemplating             0a834e8ea57f
                                                           ‘National Disaster Benefit’ Fund. Available
7   This includes policies such as the Automotive                                                               28 For more information on the risk mitigation
    Production and Development Programme                                                                           practices in the automotive industry in China
    (APDP) and the recent South African                                                                            see Deloitte China, 2020. How the Automotive
    Automotive Masterplan (SAAM). See for                                                                          Industry is acting to mitigate risk during the
    example: South African Government, 2018.            16 The New York Times, 2011. The Assembly                  epidemic: Until the day breaks and the shadows
    South African Automotive Masterplan and                Line Is Rolling Again, Tenuously, at Honda in           flee away. Available [Online]. https://www2.
    Extension of Automotive Production and                 Japan. Available [Online]: https://www.nytimes.
    Development Programme. Available [Online]:             com/2011/04/19/business/global/19honda.html             risk-in-automotive-industry-while-facing-219-           17 The Department of Trade, Industry and                   ncov.html
    davies-media-statement-south-african-                  Competition, undated. Trade, Export and              29 Correia, S., Luck, S. and Verner, E., 2020.
    automotive-masterplan-2035-and-extension               Investment Financial Assistance (Incentives).           Pandemics Depress the Economy, Public
8   Moody’s, 2020. Moody’s - Global automakers’            Accessed 30 March 2020. Available [Online]:             Health Interventions Do Not: Evidence from
    sales forecast dropped again as coronavirus           the 1918 Flu. SSRN. 26 March 2020. Available
    impact deepens. Available [Online]: https://           financial_incentive.jsp?id=37&subthemeid=26             [Online]:              18 Wheels24, 2020. Coronavirus impacts new                 cfm?abstract_id=3561560
    automakers-sales-forecast-dropped-again-as-            SA vehicle sales during February. Available          30 Ibid.
    coronavirus-impact--PBC_1221271?amp;WT.                [Online]:
    mc_id=AM~UmV1dGVyc05ld3NfQ                             SA_vehicle_sales/coronavirus-impacts-new-sa-
    U1QU19OWTZfU0JfTlJfQ1ZfUm                              vehicle-sales-during-february-20200304
    F0aW5nX05ld3NfQWxs~20200327_                        19 Fin24, 2019. A look at SA’s auto manufacturing
    PBC_1221271                                            industry. Available [Online]: https://www.
9   Bloomberg, 2020. Auto Giants Across the Globe
    Warned of Coming ‘Credit Shock’. Available             read-a-look-at-sas-auto-manufacturing-
    [Online]:              industry-20190712
    articles/2020-03-25/european-auto-giants-           20 NAAMSA, 2020. NAAMSA commentary.
    warned-on-credit-ratings-as-risks-mount                Available [Online]:

Contact us:
Dr Martyn Davies
Managing Director, Emerging Markets
& Africa and Automotive Sector Leader
Deloitte Africa

Mike Vincent
Consulting Automotive Leader
Deloitte Africa

This article was authored by
Dr Martyn Davies and Mike Vincent.
Research assistance was provided by
Simon Schaefer, Jacques Joubert and
Masego Ntsoane, and editorial assistance
by Hannah Marais.

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