Vehicle sales suffer worst slump since ’98

Industry groups blame higher taxes, inflation; see recovery this year

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A car showroom of Toyota in Metro Manila (AFP FILE PHOTO)

Vehicle sales fell by 16 percent last year, the worst full-year decline since the financial crisis in 1998. Members of two large automotive groups in the country sold 357,410 units last year, much less than the 425,673 units sold in 2017.

The Christmas spirit was also not enough to boost auto sales as December marked the groups’ steepest year-on-year drop in terms of volume sales.

This was shown in a joint report by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) released on Monday.

Campi president Rommel Gutierrez previously attributed the industry’s months-long decline to a number of factors, including the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, which made most cars more expensive due to higher excise rates.

Inflation has also affected the industry as consumers put buying new vehicles in the backseat in order to prioritize basic goods and services, according to Gutierrez, also a top official of Toyota Motors Philippines Corp.

For the month of December alone, sales reached only 31,945 units, down from the 45,494 units sold in the same month a year ago.

Industry officials earlier said that many consumers bought new vehicles in 2017 ahead of the scheduled 2018 increase in excise under the TRAIN law, the Duterte administration’s first tax reform package.

Campi and TMA are hoping the industry will grow 10 percent this year, which seems likely given the low base figure for 2018.

The full year 2018 figure was slightly worse than expected. Gutierrez said in a previous interview that they expected full-year sales to drop by as much as 15 percent.

Such sales performance marked the lowest in two decades. Back in 1998, vehicle sales slumped 43.76 percent to 81,231 units from 144,435 units in 1997, according to data collated by the Japan External Trade Organization. It took the industry around 14 years for it to recover its lost momentum.

Passenger cars sold 9,301 for December alone, a 34.4-percent decrease from the 14,182 units sold in the same month in 2017. For the full year, this segment sold 109,020 units, a 21.8-percent drop from the 139,424 units sold in the year prior.

The number of commercial vehicles sold, on the other hand, fell 27.7 percent to 22,644 units in December from 31,312 in the same month in 2017. For the full year, this segment, which made up more than 67 percent of the market, sold 248,390 units, marking a 13.2 percent drop.

Toyota Motors Philippines Corp. still had the biggest market share last year at 42.81 percent despite seeing a 16.8-percent decline in sales volume.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp., on the other hand, followed with an 18.89-percent market share despite an 8.3-percent decline in unit sales. Nissan Philippines Inc. came third with a 9.78-percent market share as it saw sales grow by 39.8 percent. – By: Roy Stephen C. Canivel 



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