New vehicle sales in South Africa jumped to a record high for the second month in a row during September, Reuters reported on Tuesday, adding that consumer demand in the continent’s biggest economy remains robust.

Total sales rose 26.5% in September to 54,574 units compared with the same month last year – but slowed from a 29% annual rise in August, the news agency said, citing National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa data.

“The numbers clearly suggest very strong general consumer spending levels although there is a slight slowdown year-on-year,” Nedbank economist Nicky Weimar told Reuters.

On a monthly basis, new vehicle sales rose by 2.6% compared with 13.7% in August, Reuters said.

According to the report, NAAMSA said in a statement: “Despite increasing fuel prices, demand remained well above average.” Attractive interest rates and finance packages coupled with strong business and consumer confidence helped fuel the trend, and 2005 would set another record, the association added.

Reuters noted that South African commercial lending rates are at 24-year lows after the central bank cut interest rates by 6.50% points in stages between June 2003 and April 2005 – this has helped ignite consumer demand, making it the main engine of faster economic growth over the past year.