Car sales slumped in April and May, as the lockdown continued in Metro Manila. — REUTERS

AUTOMOTIVE sales plunged to just over a hundred units in April, before recovering in May as lockdown restrictions began easing around the country.

Data from the joint report of Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) showed total vehicle sales plummeted 99.5% to 133 units in April from the 25,799 vehicles in the same month last year.

Vehicle sales slightly recovered in May, with 4,788 units sold. However, this is still 85% lower than 30,998 units sold in May 2019.

Car dealerships were shut from mid-March to mid-April due to the Luzon-wide lockdown. Some dealerships started reopening in mid-May after lockdown restrictions were relaxed.

For January to May, car sales slumped 51.1% to 69,463 units, compared to 142,185 units in the same period last year.

CAMPI President Rommel R. Gutierrez said in a statement the industry expects low demand to continue in the coming months because vehicles are considered big-ticket investments.

However, he said the industry projects a gradual recovery in the fourth quarter.

“While May figures are still way below the industry’s monthly average sales performance, we welcome any positive signs of recovery amid the pandemic and this season of new normal where dealerships have resumed operations at a reduced level and stringent safety protocols are being implemented at all times,” he said.

Commercial vehicle sales, accounting for 70% of auto sales, slid 84.5% to 3,399 units in May from 21,945 in the same month last year. However, this was still a significant improvement from the 107 units sold in April.

Broken down, Asian utility vehicle sales dropped 79.4% year on year to 659 units in May, while light commercial vehicle sales slipped 85.8% to 2,511 units.

On the other hand, passenger car sales in May declined 84.7% to 1,389 units. In April, only 26 passenger cars were sold.

Year to date, commercial vehicle sales slumped 49.4% to 50,262 units, while passenger vehicle sales fell 55.2% to 19,201 units.

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) remained the market leader with 50.77% market share, while sales tumbled 82.5% year on year to 2,431 units in May. In April, TMP sold 36 vehicles.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines’ sales sank 88% to 608 units in May, giving it a 12.7% share. It sold 22 vehicles in April.

Ford Motor Co. Philippines clinched 10.57% market share, with sales declining 72.5% to 506 units. Isuzu Philippines sold 302 units in May, 75% lower year on year but enough to give it a 6.3% market share.

Fifteen companies reported no sales in April, while eight continued to report zero sales in May.

Car manufacturers including Toyota Motor Philippines have launched digital tools in an effort to reach customers as their dealerships reopen. TMP introduced digital tools for service maintenance booking and an online car showroom. Honda Cars Philippines also plans to launch an online dealership platform.

Toyota also launched its new Wigo model online on June 15. TMP President Atsuhiro Okamoto said in the online press conference that they plan to sell 8,000 Wigo units for 2020, or around 1,400 per month.

As sales dried up during the lockdown, some dealerships have been permanently shut.

The Yuchengco-led House of Investments in May announced that it was closing four Honda and one Isuzu dealership in Metro Manila to “ensure overall greater efficiency.” These outlets represent almost half of its 11 dealerships. — Jenina P. Ibañez