Philippine Q1 2021 auto sales: Spark of hope amid various adversities

Apart from face shields, face masks, and disinfecting alcohol, we can pretty much say that the Philippine economy has taken a downhill path due to the pandemic. That’s despite subsequent opening of the economy towards the latter half of 2020, which somehow lessened the slope of the economy as a whole. There was an improvement, but one couldn’t deny that we’re still sinking in a quicksand fashion.

The Philippine automotive industry is among the many local industries that need help. May it be local manufacturing or distribution, the whole industry suffered a huge loss in 2020 – a steep 40 percent decline compared to the previously optimistic year that was 2019.

Frankly, I forgot the feeling of seeing car companies posting great monthly sales figures. Right now, it’s only a matter of surviving.

But there’s a faint spark of hope for the Philippine automotive industry at the beginning of 2021. And as the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI), Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), and Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) have submitted their numbers, we can see that the local car selling business is slowly recovering from last year’s drought.

CAMPI and TMA collectively reported an 8.9 percent increase in sales in Q1 2021 compared to the same quarter in 2020. That’s a neat figure, considering that January and February 2020 are pre-pandemic months, but we’d be remiss not to mention that the Taal volcano eruption also had a negative effect in the auto industry during those two months.

Leading the way for CAMPI and TMA was Toyota, of course, while Mitsubishi follows with Nissan on its trail. There were no specific figures released for these three car brands under CAMPI.

AVID, which consists of automotive importers and distributors in the country, reported a 9 percent increase in terms of vehicle sales in Q1 2021 as compared to the same period last year. Ford Philippines has been leading the charge on the side of AVID with over 5,000 units sold, followed closely behind by Suzuki Philippines with nearly 4,700 units moved. Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI) placed third at around 3,200 units delivered.

On both CAMPI and AVID reports, the light commercial vehicle segment paves way to the optimistic recovery of the auto industry. However, this segment includes midsize pickup trucks and SUVs, mixed with true commercial vehicles such as light-duty trucks and other workhorses.

Despite the blur, it’s clear that the popularity of trucks and SUVs among Filipino buyers continue amid the crisis. We can also safely say that light commercial vehicles like the Mitsubishi L300 and Suzuki Carry also contribute greatly to the numbers. Of note, these nameplates were the bestsellers in their corresponding brand sales reports last year, with the L300 even headlining in the month of March.

And then, there’s the rub. Just as soon as we saw a soft ray of daylight at the beginning of 2021, the month of March marked a revert to a stricter quarantine measure in the NCR and surrounding provinces. This, of course, resulted to impaired mobility among prospective car buyers and limited showroom operation.

To nobody’s surprise, the entire automotive industry reported a month-on-month loss in March 2021. AVID recorded a 4 percent decline while CAMPI and TMA pegged a 21.1 percent drop – both compared to their February 2021 numbers.

With quarantine measures slightly opening up at the latter half of April, will we see another increase for Q2 2021 in terms of automotive sales? Only time will tell but ultimately, the current crisis right now isn’t centered around vehicle sales. Health is still paramount, and we can only hope for the best for everyone.

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