Philippine car sales slip in Q1 but strong March gain suggests pickup

MANILA, NNA – New vehicle sales in the Philippines slipped in the first three months of the year, but a double-digit percentage increase in March indicates overall demand may be picking up after the first annual drop in sales for seven years in 2018.

The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) released the latest sales data on Monday.

Key points:

-- Members of CAMPI and TMA sold 85,388 vehicles in the January-March quarter, down 0.8 percent from 86,037 in the same period last year. It was the fifth consecutive quarter of year-on-year declines. Sales slumped last year on a sales tax hike on vehicles as part of the government’s tax reform and as fuel prices surged.

-- In January-March, passenger car sales fell 9.5 percent to 26,172 units, while commercial vehicle sales rose 3.7 percent to 59,216.

-- In March alone, auto sales jumped 14 percent to 32,173 units, marking the second straight month of year-on-year gains, led by a rebound in demand for commercial vehicles (passenger car sales still dropped).

-- Five of the top 10 carmakers suffered a sales decline in the first quarter. Sales at Toyota Philippines fell 2.6 percent to 33,554, but continued to have the biggest market share of 39.3 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Philippines maintained the second-largest market share, 18.9 percent, but posted a 17.5 percent drop to 16,140 units.

-- By contrast, Nissan Philippines continued to post the biggest increase among the top five manufacturers with sales surging 94 percent to 11,239 units. Honda Cars Philippines sold 6,403, up just 3.6 percent.

Takeaway:

-- Despite the Q1 drop, the Philippine auto industry remains positive that new car sales will pick up as the Department of Finance has said there will be no tax increase on vehicles in 2019. CAMPI President Rommel Gutierrez said the sales growth in March is “a strong indication” of recovery ahead and is likely to be sustained in the coming months.