Driving into the Future: Trends in South African Car Preferences

The automotive industry has witnessed a significant shift in consumer preferences over the years, with women increasingly opting for Crossovers, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and Double Cab body shapes while men continue to favour hatches.

These evolving trends are revealed in a comprehensive analysis of data collected over the past decade by Lightstone Auto which provides data-driven insights, online market intelligence and new vehicle sales data to the South African motor industry.

The data underscores a dynamic automotive market, with consumers adapting their preferences to match their changing lifestyles and needs. Lightstone Auto data spans a decade of automotive market observations, highlights several noteworthy trends collected by Lightstone Auto that provide insight into how certain customer demographics are making their vehicle purchases.

“Crossover and SUVs have become particularly popular among women, constituting a substantial 41% of total sales in 2023. Men, on the other hand, while they also started to show greater interest in Crossover, SUVs and Double Cabs, Hatches remain their preferred choice, accounting for approximately 29% to 30% of their market share,” says Lightstone Head of Sales, Jaco van Staden.

Women car buyers


Men car buyers


Many Crossovers and SUVs come equipped with advanced safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. These provide an extra layer of security for both the driver and passengers, which can be particularly important to women concerned about safety.

The higher driving position of these models provides better visibility of the road, making it easier to navigate traffic and parking lots and enhancing the feeling of safety for women traveling with children.

Hatchbacks are the most versatile car body shape and make an excellent choice for many drivers. They are easier to maintain, have higher load capacity, are versatile and are fuel efficient. While for women, Crossovers and SUVs are the most sought-after family vehicles in South Africa offering extra seating capacity, the practical build of Crossovers provides the best of both worlds as they are suitable for handling urban, suburban, and off-road driving conditions.

“Lightstone Auto data reveals a consistent decline in the market share of Sedans, Single Cabs, and other sub-categories, which include Multipurpose Vehicles (MPVs), Estates, Minibuses, Cabriolets, Cupes, Sub One-Ton vehicles, and Panel van/Utilities. This decline suggests that consumers are increasingly gravitating toward the practicality and versatility offered by Crossover, SUVs, and Double Cabs”, adds van Staden.

Changes in lifestyle needs has driven the shift away from Sedans. South African consumers are increasingly looking for vehicles that can accommodate their active lifestyles, such as outdoor adventures, family trips, and sports-related activities. SUVs and Crossovers are better suited to these varied needs.

Double Cab bakkies provide a blend of passenger comfort and cargo-carrying capacity. Recognised in the commercial sector for being strong, versatile, and reliable, Double Cab bakkies are also a popular choice of vehicle for everyday use. Some Double Cab vehicles come with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive options, making them more suitable for various weather and South African road conditions, including off-road driving or challenging terrains. These vehicles also tend to hold their value well in the used car market.

This analysis by Lightstone further indicates that preferences for body shapes vary by age group. Hatches continue to be the most popular choice among consumers under 30, accounting for over 50% of sales in this category. While the Crossover and SUV segment is growing among this age group, it represents slightly more than 20% of sales.

Preferred body shape for age group: 30 and under


The Hatch remains popular among 31 to 45 year-olds (see graph below), accounting for 29% of all sales in the age-group. While it has been overtaken by the Crossover/SUV option, it is less than 5% behind, and these two body shapes combined make up more than 60% of sales within this group. The Sedan shape has lost half its market share amongst this demographic over the past ten years.

Preferred body shape for age group: 31 to 45


The Crossover/SUV has replaced the Hatch as the shape of choice in both age categories from 46 years and up (see graphs below), and the Sedan shape has lost significant ground, dropping from over 20% in 2014 to less than 10% this year.

“The 46 to 60 age group is buying Double Cabs in increasing numbers, currently accounting for above 15% of sales within this group, bringing a combined Crossover/SUV/Double Cab share to almost 55%. The over 60s have also been buying more Double Cabs, but not to quite the same extent as those in the previous demographic,” explains van Staden.

Preferred body shape for age group: 46 to 60


Preferred body shape for age group: 61 and over


For additional insights and a closer look at the data visit: https://lightstone.co.za