IMPORTED CAR sales nearly doubled in March after coming off a weak year-earlier base, with March 2020 marking the start of that year’s lockdown, the industry association said.

In a report Tuesday, the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) said its 21 members carrying 26 global brands sold 5,193 units in March, up 95% jump from a year earlier.

In March 2020, the Luzon-wide lockdown shut down auto dealerships.

In the first quarter of 2021, sales rose 9% year on year to 15,857 vehicles.

Month-on-month sales however declined 4%.

Passenger car sales rose 34% to 1,372 units in March, led by Suzuki Philippines, Inc. The category’s year-to-date sales were down 7% at 4,241.

“The slow uptick of PC (passenger cars) is a result of continued low consumer confidence,” AVID President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said.

“But let us not discount the commendable performances of LCV (light commercial vehicles) and CV (commercial vehicles), and the hard-working teams that drive them. We see these two segments as our industry’s lifesavers as they lend indispensable support to the country’s revitalized infrastructure development programs.”

Light commercial vehicle sales rose 125% year on year to 3,676 units in March led by Ford Group Philippines, Inc. First quarter sales rose 13%.

Commercial vehicle sales by Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. in March rose sharply to 145 units from six a year earlier. First quarter sales totaled 418 units from 92 a year earlier.

Other car industry groups reported March sales gains of 88%. These automakers sold 20,702 vehicles in March compared with 11,029 in the same month last year, according to a joint report issued by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), reflecting the performance of automakers that manufacture in volume domestically.

Imported car sales growth in 2021 is expected to come in at between zero and 20%, depending on the government’s final decision on safeguard duties, Ms. Perez-Agudo said last month.

The Trade department imposed 200-day provisional safeguard duties on imported cars to protect domestic-industry jobs after it found a link between a decline in employment and higher imports, following a petition from an auto parts industry union. — Jenina P. Ibañez