New vehicle sales in the Philippines began to stabilise in January 2021 with total volume down by just 1.4% at 23,380 units from 23,723 units in the same month last year, according to member wholesale data released jointly by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA).
The Philippines is one of the countries in Asia worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with GDP shrinking by 9.5% last year due to prolonged lockdowns across the country throughout the year and falling exports.
Vehicle sales plunged by 39.5% to 223,793 units in 2020 from 369,941 units in 2019, based on data supplied by the two associations.
Sales of passenger vehicles rose by 11.5% to 7,295 units last month from 6,543 units a year earlier, while commercial vehicle sales were down by 6.4% at 16,085 units from 17,180 units. Toyota sold 10,820 vehicles last month to claim a market share of over 46% while Mitsubishi sold 3,519 units and Nissan 2,322.
CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez said he was “cautiously optimistic” vehicle demand in the country would continue to improve. But he warned the temporary duty on imports, announced last month and designed to protect the local industry during the pandemic, would likely hold back sales as import prices would inevitably rise from February.
The share of import sales has increased steadily over the last 15 years following the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement with shipments of completely built up vehicles from Thailand and Indonesia in particular rising sharply.
Sales of imported vehicles, including those imported by CAMPI members, now account for around 70% of total vehicle sales in the country compared with 40% in 2006 with brands such as Ford having switched entirely to imports.