AUTOMOTIVE SALES in February climbed as the industry recovers from the Taal Volcano eruption, a joint report from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) showed on Tuesday.

Data released by the groups showed February sales of 29,790 units grew 13.2% from 26,327 in the same month last year, and surged 25.6% from 23,723 units in January.

Automotive sales had dropped in January after some plants and dealerships in the National Capital Region and the Calabarzon Region were forced to temporarily suspend operations due to ashfall from the volcanic eruption. CAMPI-TMA data showed vehicle sales stood at 23,723 in January, 12% lower year on year and 30% lower than sales December 2019.

CAMPI President Rommel R. Gutierrez said the double-digit growth in February exceeded industry expectations.

“While we anticipate a growth recovery coming from the previous month’s losses due to the adverse effect of the Taal Volcano eruption, this double-digit growth is more than what we have expected,” he said.

“Based on the industry’s statistics, we are also very pleased to report that the month of February 2020 has recorded with the highest sales figures, surpassing the same month’s sales performance in the last 10 years.”

Year-to-date, vehicle sales inched up 0.6% to 53,513 units, from 53,215 last year.

In February alone, commercial vehicle sales, which accounted for 72.83% market share, grew 21.5% year on year to 21,697 units.

Broken down, Asian utility vehicle (AUV) sales soared 112.5% to 4,733 units, and light commercial vehicle sales grew 10.8% to 16,003 units. Sales of light trucks dropped 24.1% to 555.

Passenger car sales, on the other hand, slipped 4.5% to 8,093 units.

For the first two months of the year, commercial vehicle sales grew 7.2% to 38,877 units, while passenger car sales dropped 13.7% to 14,636 units.

Toyota Motors Philippines Corp. retained its spot as the market leader with 41.23% share, with its sales growing 32.5% to 12,283 units in February.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. followed with 18.73% market share, with sales growing 10.4% to 5,579 units. This was followed by Nissan Philippines, Inc. with 13.23% share and sales growing by 11.9% to 3,941.

Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI)has the fourth-largest market share with 6.34%. Its sales slumped 24.2% to 1,890 in February.

HCPI is shutting its Philippine operations this month after a global automotive industry slowdown. The company has said it will continue to sell vehicles in the country through its regional network.

Mr. Gutierrez is expecting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to have an effect on vehicle sales this year.

“While the industry remains optimistic that this growth will be sustained in the coming months, we cannot disregard the ripple effect of COVID-19 moving forward. It must be noted that the auto industry remains one of the most complex and integrated supply chains regionally and globally,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez