THE Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) reported sales rose 8% in March, signaling a “modest recovery” after the decline recorded in the first two months of the year.

In a statement, AVID said sales stood at 7,952 units in March, rising 8% compared to the 7,380 units sold during the same month last year.

The month’s performance was driven by the light commercial vehicles (LCV) segment which grew 21% year-on-year to 4,998 units.

The passenger cars (PC) segment declined 9% to 2,831 units in March while the commercial vehicles (CV) sector, sales slipped by 2% to 123 units.

Despite the March performance, sales slipped 3% to 22,497 units during the first quarter from the 23,038 units sold a year ago.

Sales of passenger cars fell 13% to 7,993 units in the January to March period. Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), the official distributor of Hyundai vehicles in the Philippines, accounted for the lion’s share at 67.61% or 5,404 units.

CV sales dipped 1% to 336 in the first quarter, with HARI contributing 71.13% or 239 units.

The LCV segment was the bright spot, with sales increasing by 4% to 14,168 units in the first three months of the year from 13,570 units last year. Ford Group Philippines, Inc. accounted for the bulk of LCV sales with 5,456 units.

“AVID’s first quarter 2019 performance indicates that the automotive industry has turned the corner and is now experiencing modest recovery,” AVID President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo was quoted in the statement as saying.

“We expect a further upturn in the next three quarters on the back of improved consumer sentiment, the introduction of exciting and innovative vehicles, and the government’s aggressive infrastructure program…. If positive economic fundamentals, including low inflation and rising living standards, are sustained, we can expect a renewed boost to motorization in the country,” Ms. Perez-Agudo, who is also HARI’s CEO and president, added.

In 2018, AVID sales declined 17% year-on-year to 88,700 units on the back of the industry-wide impact of the new excise taxes on cars introduced last year and the accelerated inflation rate.

AVID is the auto industry association whose members import their products and do not assemble in the Philippines. Its members include car brands at all price points as well as commercial vehicle distributors, and its results reflect the strength of the market for economy and high-end vehicles as well as trucks, which are considered investment goods for business buyers.

The AVID report comes a few weeks after the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. and the Truck Manufacturers Association sales data was released, showing that the total first quarter sales of members registered a 0.8% year-on-year decline to 85,388 units. — Janina C. Lim