AUTOMOTIVE SALES dropped by 12% in January after manufacturing plants and dealerships in Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) temporarily halted operations due to the eruption of Taal Volcano, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) reported on Wednesday.

The joint CAMPI-TMA sales report showed vehicle sales fell 11.8% to 23,723 units in January from 26,888 units sold in the same month last year, as sales of light commercial vehicles and passenger cars slipped.

January sales were also 29.6% lower than the 33,715 units sold in December 2019, which the groups described as a consistent seasonal pattern.

CAMPI President Rommel R. Gutierrez said the industry expected a growth slowdown after the Taal Volcano eruption on Jan. 12 disrupted operations.

“Majority of plants and some dealerships located in South Luzon were badly hit by ashfall, also affecting operations in some areas of Metro Manila. Some companies were also forced to temporarily suspend its operations for safety reasons,” he said.

However, Mr. Gutierrez said the industry is optimistic that it will recover as companies resumed operations in the Calabarzon Region.

“We will continue to work double time to catch-up on last month’s losses. We assure our customers the highest level of quality in our products and services because safety and consumer satisfaction are our priorities,” he said.

Commercial vehicle sales, which account for 72% of total car sales, dipped 6.6% to 17,180 units in January. Broken down, sales of light commercial vehicle slid 7% to 13,988 units, while those of light trucks dropped 28.7% to 365 units and those of trucks and buses (category IV) declined 29.8% to 233 units.

On the other hand, Asian utility vehicle (AUV) sales grew 2.9% to 2,479 units during the month.

Meanwhile, passenger vehicle sales fell 22.9% to 6,543 units in January.

Toyota Motors Philippines Corp. (TMPC) continued to have the largest market share of 37.47% as of January, even as it saw car sales drop 21.7% to 8,890 units.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp.’s market share stood at 21.12%, with sales dipping 1.9% to 5,011 units.

Nissan Philippines, Inc. retained the third spot at 11.91% share and a sales drop of 8.9% to 2,825 units.

Honda Cars Philippines followed with 7.46% share, with sales falling 9% to 1,769 units. Ford Motor Company Philippines held 6.29% of automotive market share, its sales dropping 16.6% to 1,492 units in January.

CAMPI-TMA has yet to disclose its sales target for 2020. In 2019, automotive sales rose 3.5% to 369,941 vehicles.

At the same time, Mr. Gutierrez, who is also a first vice-president at Toyota, said in an event on Monday that the company experienced a few days with no sales due to delivery delays caused by the ashfall, noting that demand was sustained.

TMPC had to halt operations at its assembly plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for two days in January because of ashfall from the Taal Volcano eruption.

Mr. Gutierrez said the company has since resumed operations. — Jenina P. Ibañez