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Steep fuel prices are driving increasing interest in hybrid vehicles

Steep fuel prices are driving increasing interest in hybrid vehicles
(Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Upper-income consumers are responding with a voracious interest in hybrid vehicles, which offer better fuel economy and a greener alternative.

The announcement of another steep jump in the price of all petrol grades (37 cents per litre), along with dire predictions that the cost of diesel and petrol is likely to rise further heading into the second half of 2023, is unwelcome news for South African drivers.

Drivers of diesel vehicles are now paying between 71 and 72 cents per litre more, bringing the price up from R19.49 in July to R20.21 per litre. 

Chief executive of Debt Rescue, Neil Roets, says motorists are downgrading their vehicles to more affordable and fuel-efficient cars and the latest petrol price hike is likely to entrench this trend even further. 

Lebogang Gaoaketse, head of marketing and communication at WesBank, confirms that fuel efficiency is increasingly influencing consumer decisions when buying a car. 

“The current economic situation has led to a scale-down trend in vehicle purchases, with affordability being a key concern for consumers. Rising fuel costs, inflation, increased interest rates and the power crisis have impacted the overall cost of living, with many now opting for more budget-friendly vehicles that provide comparable technological and safety features to luxury cars. 

“This shift in purchase decisions reflects a growing need for cost-effective transportation solutions,” he says.

Rainer Gottschick, chief executive of retail and rental at Motus, also confirmed that motorists seem to be switching to less premium brands and to lower-category vehicles, with an extension of the car replacement cycle to 48 months. 

Despite consumers trading down, the demand for pre-owned vehicles remains significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels. This is according to TransUnion Africa chief revenue officer, Stephen de Blanche, who notes that 29,267 used vehicles were financed on average each month in 2022, while this year the figure has averaged 26,161 to date. The decline is a result of a major shortage of quality used vehicles, along with a steep rise in prices.

TransUnion’s vehicle pricing index shows that used vehicles are now 9.8% more expensive than a year ago. While historically, about 40% of used vehicles that were financed were between one and two years old, now only 20% fall into this category.

Upper-income consumers are responding with a voracious interest in hybrid vehicles, which offer better fuel economy and a greener alternative.  

According to the new vehicle statistics released by the Automotive Business Council earlier this week, the first six months of this year saw 2,578 new energy vehicles (which include passenger plug-in, traditional hybrid and battery electric vehicles) being sold – up 34% year on year.

According to the AutoTrader Hybrid Consumer Survey released in February, there has been a remarkable surge in the popularity of hybrid vehicles. 

The AutoTrader report says the use of the “hybrid” fuel search filter increased by 47% in 2022 compared to 2021. Hybrid consumer advert views were also up 44% year on year, while hybrid enquiries had risen by 64%.

How to save on your fuel

WesBank provided these fuel economy tips:

  1. Avoid aggressive driving habits such as rapid acceleration, speeding, and harsh braking. Smooth driving improves fuel efficiency and extends the life of brakes and tyres.
  2. Maintain a constant speed and avoid excessive speeding. Driving at slightly lower speeds can improve fuel efficiency.
  3. Remove unnecessary items from the vehicle. Less weight means less energy required for acceleration.
  4. Use air conditioning sparingly at low speeds and consider rolling down windows instead, providing it is safe to do so. At higher speeds (80km/h or higher), using air conditioning is more fuel-efficient than open windows due to reduced wind resistance.
  5. Use navigation apps to find the most efficient routes and avoid traffic, reducing fuel consumption. Listen to traffic reports, and try to avoid roads with too many traffic lights and intersections. DM
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