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Report: South Africa May Crack Down on SUVs and Off-Road Vehicles

Sunday Independent. The South African government may consider imposing penalties to slow the rapid growth in sales of SUVs and off-road vehicles, which have continued to rise despite soaring fuel prices, according to Nhlanhla Gumede, the chief director of hydrocarbons in the department of minerals and energy.

The government had considered instituted a combined program of surcharges on fuel guzzlers and rebates for fuel-efficient cars two years ago, but opted not to intervene in the market, according to Gumede.

“One would have thought that rising fuel prices would see more people buying cheaper vehicles that would use up to six litres of petrol per 100 kilometres [39 mpg US], but many opt for vehicles that use 22 litres per 100 kilometres [11 mpg US],” he said.

Unleaded gasoline in South Africa ranges from R7.04 to R6.80 per liter (US$3.87 to US$3.74 per gallon US).

Annual sales of small SUVs in South Africa have more than tripled from 4,192 in 2001 to 12,835 in 2005. An estimated 500,000 drivers now own 4x4s and SUVs in South Africa.

John Salters, the managing director of the market research firm Synovate, said that despite the petrol price increases, awareness and adoption of alternative fuel engine technologies remained low.

Synovate surveyed 4,568 respondents in nine countries, including South Africa, assessing their familiarity with hybrid electric vehicles, direct-injection diesel and alternative fuel source vehicles. [Earlier post.]

“Globally, hybrid electric vehicles are the least familiar to consumers, with only 1 percent of those surveyed currently or previously owning such a vehicle,” he said.



Maybe what they aught to mandate is a fuel economy display with lifetime / trip(s) / instantaneous readings so that drivers become aware of their fuel economy. This helps people drive for better fuel economy and puts it in the front of your mind every time you drive instead of indirectly when you fill up (if you even bother to calculate fuel economy). A speedometer is mandatory equipment, so why not a fueleconometer?


Just tax fuel like we do in Europe. That will get most people driving more effecient cars ( and generate lots of revenue which I am sure SA could do with ).

allen Z

You also have those who use those SUVs/pickups to get around on dirt/gravel/rutted-potholed paved roads. They would pay a large price for higher taxes. Some are small business owners who need them to get around the poorer neighborhoods and backroads. Granted, there are owners of these vehicles that do not have a use for their offroad utility, but this must be dealt with in a smarter way. After all, South Africa is a developing nation with half under the poverty line.


I own an orchard in Lake Chelan that you have to get to over what the real estate agents call "jeep trail" I remember getting over the road fine in my 1979 Toyota Celica. Just because you go off a paved road does not mean you need an SUV that is something that marketeers here for GM have told you you need to do. DOn't be sucked into this false "necessity", people have got around fine for years without SUV's (stupid useless vehicles). Besides if they are so poor what are they doing wasting money on huge gas guzzlers?

Harvey D.


You are almost 100% correct. You dont need a VUS and certainly not a 3+Ton 4 x 4 to drive on unpaved roads.


The SUV has become so ubiquitous that, apparently, there are a lot of people who can't imagine life without them. Oh, Lordy, what did our poor ancestors do before the SUV? I drove around rutted, crummy dirt roads for years near my mountain cabin with a '63 VW.

Until someone comes up with a scientific poll of those who drive SUVs in South Africa, we don't really know for what purpose they are used. Certainly, the vast majority of SUVs in America have never seen a dirt road much less a severely rutted one. Or maybe those trips to the mall have become much more treacherous than I had realized.


Most people I know that have bought SUVs did it because they didn't feel their kids would be safe in a little car from all those other people driving arround in those monsters. It's a self sustaining lunacy. As for S.A., I imagine that if you're rich enough there to buy an SUV, the price of gas is irrelevant.


So, really what we have here is the auto version of Mutual Assured Destruction. Unilateral disarmament is the only answer.


Too bad it is shown that while SUVs may have less injuries for adults (in the SUV) when in a collision with a smaller vehicle statistics also show that children have HIGHER rates of injuries (in the SUV as compared to occupants of sedans).

John Ard

I know around here in Alabama, a lot of baseball moms drive SUV's because it's not "cool" to be seen in a minivan. Maybe vehicles like the Mazda 5 could help pull folks away from such vehicles, at least in this country.


Re: fuel economy meter.

Readily available. It's also known as a vacuum guage. Used to be available on some cars and can be easily added.

I remember a friend who had an Isuzu Impulse (a funky higher end sporty car in the days before GM destroyed Isuzu) that had one. We'd have fun trying to see how high we could get the MPG to go. It didn't have any way to input fuel price or to have a fuel price paid odometer, but watching the MPG dive when you put your foot into the accelerator was some incentive. I watch people race from stop light to stop light all the time. Then they want to know why their V6 Accord or Camry only gets 19 mpg.

It is also useful for other engine diagnostics, but would probably be lost on most of the obliviots on the road today. You know the kind of people who think it's ok to drive a car even with the oil pressure idiot light on.

allen Z

John Ard,
Yeah, the Mazda 5 is a nice compact van. Unlike most other cars, it easily gets better than listed EPA MPG, into 30+ mpg range at times.


Re: 79 Celica and 63 VW.

Yes, those vehicles had the ability to traverse poor roads to an extent, actually a lot with respect to the VW due to it's rear weight bias and tall road clearance. Even my 80's model Escort was ok on bad roads and snow (in West Virginia at the time).

Unfortunately, US auto manufactures don't make cars like that any more. Many US spec cars have difficulty negotiating a speed bump due the seemingly mandatory spoiler/ground effects and the ridiculously low suspension heights. Not to mention the standard wheels that support only low profile tires available only in performance treads that are worthless in mud, snow, or sand.

My 90s model Camry just wouldn't go in some of the places that my Escort went. And when I last visited WV, I was unable to get a rental van (Freestar) to negotiate a poor road that led to a relative's house, due to lack of traction (street style tires) and low body clearance. And this was on a well-maintained dirt/gravel road. I imagine SA has worse.

No, one doesn't NEED an SUV most of the time, but poor tire choices and lack of ground clearance means that most modern US cars are not up to the task of tooling around on poor roads.


AllenZ, do you drive a Mazda 5? What do you get in the city? Auto or manual?


All Subary vehicles sold in US/Canada are AWD. If you look to the car from the rear, you will notice that clearance is very clean, with no protruding down suspension parts. Surprisingly, same could be said about most Hyundai vehicles. All Subies have choice of three suspension/tires settings: passenger, performance, and off-road. Their Forester SUV is based on Impreza car unibody platform, has decent off-road capabilities, but real gem is their flat four and six engines (flats are also used by Porsche). Flat four gives Forester very low center of gravity, which results in unusual to SUV car-like stability and highway handling. As being in core company producing industrial machinery, Subaru vehicles are amazingly easy to repair, accessibility to any engine part is a breeze even on turbocharged models, and they always trying to use best possible technology, sometimes regardless of market demands. The example is their Tribeca minivan, with silky smooth flat six, AWD, and dynamic stability control, which could be found only on up level performance Acura and BMW. Who need minivan with racing capability? But any way, such touches as light alloy hood (on ALL currently sold vehicles, not only on high end of the line), total absence of unnecessary covers in engine bay, and extensive use of light alloys in suspension elements are very appealing. They also offer SW body for all their vehicles, incloding performance oriented WRX. Truly universal and well thought through vehicles, capable to substitute 90% of large SUV.

tom deplume

The Dodge Sprinter puts the lie to the idea that a large vehicle must have poor fuel mileage. I don't see any need for a vehicle to have a less than 30:1 lbs/hp ratio.


I agree with you that 99% of time such low power (100hp per 3000lb car) is sufficient (depends on driver!). However, it is nice to have higher power on demand, up to 150hp per ton (180 hp per 2800lb) – this is about the limit front wheel drive car could handle. This is about the ideology behind Japanese cars – use small displacement engine which has low fuel consumption at partial load, but capable to whine to high RPM and power output if needed. Fuel consumption per hp produced at high RPM is higher then produced by high displacement low-RPM engine, but overall this trade-off is justified. About the same could be said for turbocharged engines (except for diesel, where turbo is a must). You will find turbocharged engines only on performance-oriented models. I believe that US preference for slower RPM high displacement engines is wrong (thought it is not exclusively American, look for example for Nissan 3.5 liter 265 hp monster powering Maxima family sedan). Hopefully, fast shifting transmissions like VW DSG will lead to engine downsizing without frustrating penalty of downshift delay.

Richard C Burton

Andrey; while I generally agree that Subaru's are great vehicles,my experience with maintenance is different.Ever tried changing spark plugs, when the cylinder heads are so close to the frame rails that one can't even use a socket wrench? Or try a valve job, which is a major headache as both heads must be pulled...(I own a 97 Outback,and have experience with both...)Good solid vehicle tho,unbeatable on snow or ice, and decent mileage(22-28mpg)with stick shift-the automatic was a dog, and cost 10%+mileage loss.


Reportedly Subaru improved their quality in last 5 years. Spark plugs – I used platinum tipped and they are good for at least 40K miles. Now I installed Iridium tipped, which are promised to last 100K miles. Will see… Valve job – yee, it is pain in the a**. That’s why both vehicles in my family have engines equipped with hydraulic leash adjusters and roller cam followers. So far (140K and 190K miles) no valve job was needed. Synthetic oil exclusively, of course.


I've got an 87 BMW 528e that has a fuel meter on the dash. It the dial pins at around 75 mpg going downhill. I did however recently get 30 mpg on a tank of gas (all on I-5). By the way the car is a 2.7L and has 232,000 on the odot. There isn't much on the market that could compete with it today!


I've got an '04 VW Passat TDI that pins at over 199 MPG (the trip computer goes to dashes) down a sufficiently steep hill, or when coasting in neutral at a high enough speed.  And I regularly get 40+ MPG on the freeway (including on I-5).

It could still do better.  A sixth gear would probably put it in 45+ MPG territory at cruise on the freeway.

allen Z

I based it on these sites:
diesel version (IMPERIAL GALLONS):
___Another point I should had made was the fact that mileage varies due to a driver's driving style. Some have achieved as low as 20 mpg mixed, while other have had up 33 combined mpg.
___Diesel version will not be sold in the US, but if emissions issues are rectified for Euro 5/EPA Tier2 bin5 standards, that version may come over to US.


India is doing without SUVs on roads which can challenge any road in Africa.It will surprise u how Suzuki's 800cc front wheel drive small car monoveures the dusty,rocky and bumpy terrains with overloads all over India.

SUVs is really a forced necessity and for Africa its irelevant.Indian company Mahindra is making good money with its cheap and rugged SUVs like Scorpio in african market.


Let the market decide. If people have the money and want to drive them so be it.The Government should spend their time looking for alternative energy not telling people what to drive. And that applies to every country.

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