AS THE AUTOMOTIVE industry recovered from the challenges of the previous year and have reached stable growth with new and upgraded releases this 2019, insights have further shed light on the activity of carmakers and the choices of the driving public.

Consolidating figures from distributor groups Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID), Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI), and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), reported last July that the Philippine automotive industry accumulated a total of 195,057 units sold for the first half of the year.

This meant an improved performance by 1.87% compared to the same period last year, which tallied 191,470 units.

Commercial vehicles — which include car types like sport utility vehicles, light trucks, and bus trucks — still took the large share of the market with 131,708 units. Passenger vehicles, on the other hand, had 63,349 units.

Among the leading players in the market, AutoIndustriya continued, Toyota Motor Philippines remained the top manufacturer with 37.49% of total units sold in the January-to-May period. This was followed by Mitsubishi Motors with 15.68% of the units; Nissan Philippines, Inc. with a 10.8% share; Hyundai Philippines with 9.05%; and Ford Motor Company Philippines, Inc. at 5.76%.

Meanwhile, as the year nearly wraps up, auto sales kept on a positive trend albeit a momentary decline. The sales have been growing since February. However, after recovering in June with a year-on-year increase of 8.7%, the data jointly gathered by CAMPI and TMA recorded a “seasonal” drop of 2.4% (29,599) last August, as reported by BusinessWorld. Sales recovered the following month with a 2.3% y-o-y growth to 31,820 units, as well as a 7.5% increase from total sales in August.

So far, the data continue to reflect a steady growth as overall sales rose by 8.1% to 34,397 units last October.

CAMPI President Rommel R. Gutierrez is optimistic about this sustained growth. “We remain positive that our industry target for the end of the year will be achieved as all brands remain committed to provide innovative mobility solutions to the Filipino people,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.

In relation to innovative solutions, it must have been apparent that connected cars — vehicles that are connected to the Internet through a mobile data stream — have started appealing to the driving market.

“Connectivity has been a key enabler for automakers like Ford to offer greater level of comfort, convenience and safety to car owners,” said Linus Mattson, infotainment supervisor of Ford Asia Pacific, in a report by

These connected automobiles have expanded their capacities to the point of giving access right at the fingertips of motorists holding their smartphones. And such advancements have come just in time, as recent research by Euromonitor International suggests.

“Strong economic prospects and government policies seeking to boost the performance of the automobile industry have created a positive platform for the further development of in-car entertainment in the Philippines,” the global market research company wrote. “The domestic economy is projected to grow substantially in the coming years thanks to investment from foreign companies and rising government and consumer spending.”

Aside from the monthly stream of data on car sales, there were further insights regarding the automotive industry mined by local online automotive marketplace AutoDeal in its quarterly Philippine Automotive Industry Report.

The latest release of the report noted the consumers’ “heightened interest in several Chinese brands such as MG, Foton, BAIC, GAC, and JAC.”

“This has been particularly evident in the subcompact crossover segment where models like the MG ZS and the JAC S2 have given more established household brands a run for their money,” Christopher Franks, chief operating officer of AutoDeal, wrote in the report. “With competitive price points, these nameplates have struck at the heart of a segment that is still recovering from a substantial drop in consumer interest following last year’s increase in excise taxes.”

Furthermore, he noted the prominence of online marketplaces as “one of the most valuable research commodities for consumers.”

Analyzing the volume of pages on AutoDeal visited by consumers before making a purchase, the report found out that “consumers with a single interest only navigated to three pages before making a purchase whereby in comparison, consumers who were interested in multiple brands visited 60”.

In terms of leads, the Asian Utility Vehicle & Multi-Purpose Vehicle, subcompact car, and light pick up truck are the leading market segments. Among automakers, Toyota remains the most inquired brand with more than 30% of total inquiries. This was followed by Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Nissan, Ford, Isuzu, and Hyundai.

Another interesting trend within the year was a finding by India-based market intelligence analysis firm Ken Research about auto loans. The research stated that “it is expected that by the end of 2023, outstanding auto loans in the Philippines could reach P4.7 trillion.”

What makes this spike in loans possible are a mix of factors. An easy access to vehicles through loans offered by banks and dealers have been observed, with streamlined processes in applying for such. Add to that an increase in the middle-class sector who have “higher purchasing power”.

“Credit disbursement will increase as more people become part of the banking system. Both banks and nonbanking institutions are targeting these segments in the most untapped areas, which will result in a steady increase in auto loan disbursements for these segments,” Ken Research was quoted as stating in a report by Visor. — Adrian Paul B. Conoza