Start smiling (please)

Start smiling (please)

I am so tired of being surrounded by grumpy people. Goodness gracious me! Things really are not that bad.

Is it just me … or is our industry more negative than ever before? Wherever I go, I hear moans and groans. Everyone tells me that business is so tough. That companies are going out of business. That we’re all doomed.

What a load of rubbish.

Yes, business is challenging. And it is changing. But I really do think that there are lots of reasons why we should be smiling.

Let’s kick off with commercial vehicle sales. In June 2013, sales of light commercial vehicles, bakkies and minibuses rose by 2,3 percent, while medium and heavy truck sales were 20,5 and 3,8 percent up respectively.

These positive figures bode well, as Jacques Carelse, managing director of UD Trucks Southern Africa, notes: “We are very heartened by the steady growth of the industry during the past six months. If the various macroeconomic indicators remain relatively stable throughout the remainder of 2013, the market should be able to reach the forecasted total of around 28 000 units.”

UD Trucks is not alone in its upbeat attitude. Alexander Taftman, product and marketing director at Scania South Africa, tells FOCUS that his company’s order book is looking “much better” than last year. Deliveries are up too – a whopping 22 percent.

“The need for transport is greater this year; from our perspective this is a much better year than 2012. We obviously don’t know what the last two quarters will hold. There are some worrying signs that quarter three and four won’t be as good, but we are keeping our fingers crossed,”
he comments.

The economy as a whole is looking okay too. “While the South African economy continues to grow at a slower pace than we want it to, the fact remains that June 2013 was the 46th month of an upswing, making this the second longest business cycle upswing in the country’s history,” says Mike Schüssler, chief economist at

Since the Second World War, the longest upswings have taken place after 1994, with the highest growth period being during the early 1960s. Schüssler maintains that we are facing a period of “steady, albeit slow, growth”.

“The South African economy is growing. It may not be positively exploding, but it is more robust. The troubled waters of the second half of last year are probably behind us,” he believes.

The Kagiso Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is telling a similar tale – it increased by 1,2 points in June to 51,6. When the PMI is above 50, manufacturing is considered to be in positive territory.

Figures recently released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveal a positive growth in the demand for air freight in South Africa and Africa (African freight demand grew by 1,4 percent in April 2013).

Plus the retail sector is looking good – and we all know that this sector buys lots of trucks, while being an important contributor to gross domestic product (GDP). Incidentally, South Africa’s retail sector accounts for roughly 13 percent of GDP.

According to Global Intelligence Alliance’s survey entitled: Business perspectives on emerging markets 2012 to 2017, the global retail sector is eyeing this country and this continent. The survey found that the global retail sector planned to source up to 21 percent of its revenue from emerging markets by 2014. Some 22 percent of companies surveyed chose South Africa as the top emerging market in their industries, and said that they planned to look at over the next five years.

So, there are lots of reasons to smile. And, if I have not convinced you, then remember the advice of author Chad Sugg, who wrote: “If you’re reading this … congratulations, you’re alive. If that’s not something to smile about, then I don’t know what is.”

I rest my case.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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