Vehicle sales have been affected by lockdown restrictions in Metro Manila. – PHILIPPINE STAR /MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

IMPORTED vehicle sales for the first seven months of the year dropped by 50.9%, outpacing the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc.’s (AVID) expectation of a 40% sales slump for the full year, as the pandemic continues to dampen demand.

In a report released on Monday, AVID said the industry representing 21 member companies and 26 global brands sold 24,607 units in the seven-month period compared with the 50,151 sold last year.

Imported vehicle sales retained its month-on-month uptick, selling 5,100 units in July, or 38% higher than the 3,697 sold a month earlier.

The group said there has been an increase in passenger cars and subcompact SUVs sales because consumers are looking for safe mobility while public transport is restricted. Sales of small utility trucks and vans have also been rising.

AVID President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said the industry anticipated and prepared to adapt to the return to a stricter lockdown earlier this month. Metro Manila and nearby provinces are under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until Aug. 18, although an announcement on new community quarantine levels is pending.

“Given that we have already bottomed out in the first semester, we believe the second half of the year will be better assuming there are no further lockdowns past Aug. 18,” she said. “Our focus now is to win back consumer confidence and give them the best value during these pandemic times.”

The automotive industry has been adopting digital tools to sell cars, including virtual showrooms.

Passenger car sales plummeted by 55% to 7,890 vehicles in the first seven months compared with the same period last year, with Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. accounting for a bulk of the sales with 4,054 units.

Light commercial vehicle sales dropped by 48% to 16,561 units, led by Ford Group Philippines, Inc. which sold only 5,873 units or less than half of the 12,217 sold last year.

Commercial vehicle sales fell 73% to the 156 units sold by Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc.

Both local manufacturers and import distributors expect at least a 40% sales slump in 2020.

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

Cars sold by manufacturers based in the country saw a 48.7% decline in the first seven months to 105,583 units sold compared with the same period a year ago, a joint report by Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) said last week.

Year to date, commercial vehicle sales dropped 47.6% to 75,514 units, while passenger car sales fell 51.4% to 30,069 units. — Jenina P. Ibañez