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As Toyota remains far ahead of the pack, newbie Geely sustains impressive performance

Just as a glass of water can be regarded as half full or half empty, the first quarter 2021 sales reports of the country’s two major automotive groups show growth as well as decline.
A joint report by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) indicated a 21.1% drop with total sales of 20,702 units in March  versus 26,230 units in February.
However, CAMPI-TMA’s 1st quarter sales of 70,312 units compared to the same period a year ago reflected an 8.9% increase.  And the March 2021 total sales of 20,702 units showed an 87.7% growth over the 11,029 units sold in March 2020, when the first pandemic lockdown was imposed.
In the same manner, the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) reported a 4% decline month-on-month with 5,193 units sold in March 2021 versus 5,401 in February 2021.
On the other hand, AVID posted a 9% increase in Q1 2021 sales of 15,857 units versus the 14,554 units sold in the same period last year.
In March 2021 alone, sales surged by 95% with 5,193 units sold compared to the2,663 units sold in March 2020.

DOUBLE WHAMMY.  Lawyer Rommel Gutierrez, the president of CAMPI, traced the month-on-month sales decline to the double whammy that hit the industry: the imposition of a provisional safeguard duty adding more tariffs on imported motor vehicles, and the Enhanced Community Quarantine that restricted anew the industry’s operations in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces.
“The auto industry felt the slowdown in sales due to the reluctance of buyers with the additional deposit for some imported vehicles because of the provisional safeguard duty,” Gutierrez said in a press statement.  “The lockdown also forced dealers to close operations that badly hit the already struggling auto industry.”
AVID president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo in a press release noted the 7% decrease in the sales of passenger cars (PC) versus the 13% growth in the sales of light commercial vehicles (LCV): “The slow uptick of PC is a result of continued low consumer confidence.  But let us not discount the commendable performances of LCV and CV, and the hardworking teams that drive them.  We see these two segments as our industry’s lifesavers as they lend indispensable support to the country’s revitalized infrastructure development programs.”
FORD CATCHING UP.  Looking at the list of the Top 10 Q1 Sales 2021 Performers, the reader immediately notices that 4th placer Ford Motor Co. PH, Inc. (5,194 total vehicles sold) is only four units away from catching up with Nissan PH, Inc.(5,198), which has kept the coveted No. 3 rank since mid-2019.
Third place is the only attainable target for industry players because Toyota Motor PH Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors PH Corp. have long ago cemented their hold on No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Ford’s Q1 2021 performance is outstanding since it whittled down the 4,623-unit lead that NPI enjoyed in Q1 2020 when NPI scored 8,517 unit sales while Ford sold 3,894 units.
Indeed, in March 2021 alone, Ford (1,705 units sold) retained a 147-unit edge over NPI (1,558), down from a 450-unit advantage in February 2021 when Ford sold 1,769 units versus NPI’s 1,319 – but still a solid 3-digit advantage.
What could explain Ford’s upward trajectory?  Historically, the Nissan Navara has always outsold the Ford Ranger, although Ford PH offers the widest lineup of pickup trucks in the country with 13 variants including the Raptor and the new FX4.  NPI is countering the Ford surge with the recent intro of the new Nissan Navara PRO-4X.
This is what Ford has that NPI doesn’t have:  a hot-selling subcompact SUV, the Ford Territory, that topped the subcompact SUV sales in 2020 in the Philippines. The Territory captured 33% share in the small SUV segment with 1,925 units sold as of YTD December 2020 although it had been launched on the market only five months earlier. The Territory outsells the Everest and EcoSport, making it Ford’s third best-selling model after the Ranger and the Ranger Raptor. 
Meanwhile, NPI has stopped selling the Nissan Juke, a funky subcompact SUV/crossover that would have been the Ford Territory’s competitor as it belongs to the same price range.  Speculation is rife that NPI will bring in the Nissan Kicks, the new subcompact crossover that is replacing the Juke.  
For some reason, NPI’s compact SUV, the Nissan X-Trail, never really took off in sales.  So until the Nissan Kicks arrives to challenge the Ford Territory, it is possible that by next month, Ford PH will overtake NPI to grab the No. 3 spot. 

HONDA UPS ITS LEAD OVER HYUNDAI. In Q1 2020, Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) enjoyed a lead of 1,341 units over Honda Cars PH, Inc. (HCPI) when HARI sold 5,521 units versus HCPI’s 4,180.
This year’s Q1, the tables are turned: HCPI with 3,450 vehicles sold has a 186-unit margin over HARI’s 3,264.  In March 2021 alone, HCPI logged a 116-unit lead over HARI with 963 vehicles sold compared to HARI’s 847.
From YTD February 2021, HCPI thus continues as No. 6 while HARI remains in No. 7, a big drop from the No. 3 rank it held in 2010-2019.
GEELY STAYS AS NO. 9. In 2020, Geely, the brand relaunched by Sojitz G Auto PH (SGAP) in September 2019, made it to the Top 10 Sales Performers by selling 2,158 vehicles and grabbing 10th place from Kia PH (2,129 sold).  
In December 2020 alone, Geely sold 520 vehicles and although sales declined to 339 units in January 2021, it was enough to overtake the other incumbent Chinese brand, Foton, for 9th place.
In Q1 2021, Geely remained  at No. 9 with total vehicle sales of 1,313 units versus Kia’s 1,006. Geely thus recorded a 345% increase from the 295 units sold in Q1 2020.  This March, SGAP posted its highest monthly sales of 533 vehicles.
SGAP read the Philippine market smartly when it brought only SUVs here.   SGAP imports and distributes the Geely Coolray, Azkarra and Okavango SUVs.
SUMMING UP.  The combined imposition of safeguard duties and a lockdown in March 2021 hit the auto industry like a double whammy, but the industry still managed to post a Q1 year-on-year increase in sales.  Whether the industry will improve its month-on-month sales performance in Q2 mainly depends, of course, on whether the lockdown will be moderated.

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