CAR SALES remained sluggish in February. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

CAR SALES in February declined by 12% compared with the same month last year, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) said in a report on Thursday.

The joint report said that the industry sold 26,230 vehicles in February, lower than the 29,790 units in the same month last year.

To recall, automotive sales in February 2020 showed a slight recovery from the disruptions to dealership operations caused by the Taal Volcano eruption earlier that year.

February and year-to-date 2021 car sales

Month on month, February sales grew by 12.2% from January levels.

CAMPI President Rommel R. Gutierrez said in a statement that the industry welcomed the monthly growth, noting improvements in sales of Asian utility vehicles (AUV) and light trucks.

However, he said CAMPI remains concerned the provisional safeguard duties slapped on car imports will hurt the industry’s recovery.

“While the industry sees early signs of recovery, the provisional import duties, more so if it becomes definitive, will derail any recovery efforts of the automotive industry,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

“Rather than restricting imports, a better incentive scheme must be crafted to attract investments for local production of motor vehicles.”

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) imposed provisional safeguard duties on imported cars after it found a link between a decline in local industry employment and an import surge, based on a petition from an auto parts labor group.

The Safeguard Measures Act or Republic Act No. 8800 allows domestic producers to ask the government to conduct an investigation into their import competitors if they claim to have been injured by excessive imports.

Car manufacturers have started raising prices as they collect deposits for cars affected by the provisional duties while the Tariff Commission conducts its own investigation.

In February, commercial vehicle sales, which account for almost 70% of the market, declined 15.5% to 18,331 units.

Broken down, sales of light commercial vehicles dropped 15.7% to 13,483 units, while light truck sales fell 25.9% to 411 units. AUV sales slid 14.5% to 4,045 units.

On the other hand, passenger vehicle sales dipped 2.4% to 7,899 cars in February.

Year-to-date automotive sales fell 7.3% to 49,610 units from 53,513 vehicles in the same two months last year.

Commercial vehicle sales declined 11.5% to 34,416 units in the first two months of the year, while passenger car sales went up 3.8% to 15,194 units.

Toyota Motors Philippines Corp. (TMP) continued to have the largest market share at 49.84% after selling 13,074 units. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. had a 19.34% market share with 5,072 units sold, while Suzuki Philippines, Inc. sold 1,513 units at 5.77% market share.

In 2020, industry car sales plunged 39.5% to 223,793 units amid the pandemic.  Jenina P. Ibañez