By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter</em

THE CAR INDUSTRY is retaining its sales projection despite the two-week return to a strict lockdown in Metro Manila and four key economic areas.

“We still maintain the revised target of down by 40% from last year,” Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) Rommel R. Gutierrez said in a mobile message on Tuesday.

Total car sales in 2019 reached 369,941 units, based on data from CAMPI and the Truck Manufacturers Association. Sales last year was up 3.5% from 2018, after light commercial vehicles and light trucks sales improved.

Vehicle sales in the first half of 2020 fell 51.2% to 85,041 units compared with the same period last year after car dealerships shut down due to lockdown restrictions.

The stricter lockdown in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna retains the limited capacity operations for motor vehicle sales, but limits the movement of people.

Vehicle importers said that the return to a strict lockdown makes sales unpredictable.

“At the onset of the pandemic and lockdowns, we forecasted industry sales to drop by at least 40% for 2020. We initially based our assumptions on a U-shaped or slow recovery based on existing indicators then,” Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc.’s (AVID) President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

“However, the resurgence of cases and the shift back to MECQ makes any forecast unpredictable and more complex,” she said, referring to modified enhanced community quarantine, the government’s lockdown measure that banned most public transportation. She said digital tools launched by companies will soften the blow of the lockdown on sales. Car companies have been rolling out mobile applications and online platforms for showrooms and booking services.

“By going fully digital, we are able to reach out to customers in their homes, book appointments or test drives, show our products and services virtually, or simply engage in some form of social interaction,” Ms. Perez-Agudo said.

“Buying a vehicle used to be a tedious process wherein you had to schedule a trip to the dealership, brave traffic, and negotiate with sales consultants. Nowadays, everything is at your fingertips.”

AVID’s full-year 2019 sales slipped 0.5% to 87,984 from an updated 88,430 units the year before.

Imported vehicle sales dropped 54.8% in the first half of 2020 to 19,455 units.