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At first glance, the year-on-year growth in sales reported by the automotive industry for the month of May looks spectacular.
The joint sales report of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association shows that in May 2021, total vehicle sales year-to-date reached 22,062 units, a year-on-year growth of nearly 361% from the 4,788 units sold YTD in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) reported a 293% year-on-year spike in YTD sales from 1,239 units sold in May 2020 to 4,864 this May.
But the YOY growth is based on sales recorded in May 2020, when business activities were still shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In May 2020, sales plunged to the lowest point in the industry’s history, next only to April 2020 when market leader Toyota could sell only 36 vehicles and two brands in the lower Top 10 didn’t sell any vehicles at all.
When quarantine restrictions were somewhat eased in May 2020, sales improved a bit, although Toyota was the only carmaker to post sales in 4 digits (2,431 units). The rest of the Top 10 Sales Performers could scrape together much less in sales, ranging from Mitsubishi’s 608 down to Honda’s 3 units.
With such a low YTD sales figure as the base in May 2020, there was nowhere to go but up when lockdown levels were relaxed in May 2021, even though it was preceded by hardest lockdown measure in April 2021.
MONTH-ON-MONTH GROWTH. As CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez noted in a press release, the YOY growth “shows a nascent recovery… The industry remains optimistic of a nascent recovery, but at the same time on guard for any downside risks of the pandemic, particularly if lockdowns are reimposed in NCR Plus and in other regions resulting in tepid consumer confidence.”
Nonetheless, the CAMPI head was encouraged by the 23.6% month-on-month growth as total vehicle sales for May reached 22,062 units versus 17,843 in April this year.
 AVID president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo reported a smaller month-on-month gain of 8% in unit sales from 4,496 units sold in April to 4,864 in May this year.
YTD SALES. According to Gutierrez, the industry has sold 110,217 units YTD, a 58.7% increase compared with the same period last year, while AVID president Agudo said that AVID members  recorded a 59% surge YTD with 25,217 units sold in the first 5 months of 2021 versus 15,811 units sold in the same period last year.
It should be noted, though, that CAMPI and AVID each count the sales figures of Ford and Suzuki as their own since the two brands are members of both groups.
Players in the Magic 5 Circle are ranked same as April 2021, with Nissan PH, Inc. still hanging on to 5th place with 7,499 vehicles sold YTD this May (please see chart).  
FORD VS SUZUKI.  What’s interesting to watch is the contest between Ford Motor Co. PH, Inc. and Suzuki PH, Inc. for the coveted 3rd place.  YTD, Ford scored 8,239 total sales while Suzuki posted 8,192, only 47 units behind the American brand.  Suzuki, which specializes in small vehicles versus Ford’s big Ranger and Ranger Raptor pickups, will try to overtake Ford again this June.
Suzuki is on a roll, scoring the highest sales per month among the 3 brands trailing No. 1 Toyota and No. 2 Mitsubishi in the Magic 5 Circle.  This May, Suzuki sold 1,802 vehicles, even more than No. 3 Ford’s 1,677, and in April Suzuki led the way again with 1,695 units sold versus Ford’s 1,368 and 5th placer Nissan’s 1,023.
ISUZU VS HONDA.  Isuzu PH Corp. and Honda Cars PH, Inc. are also running neck-and-neck.  Last April, Isuzu with 4,361 units sold was only 37 units ahead of Honda’s 4,324.  But this May, Isuzu expanded its lead over Honda to 359 units by selling 5,632 units YTD versus Honda’s 5,273.
 What could possibly boost the bid of Honda Cars, which announced plans to stop selling the Jazz mini subcompact hatchback and Mobilio 7-seater subcompact MPV, is the possible entry of the highly esteemed Ridgeline pickup to challenge the Isuzu D-Max.
CAUTIONARY TALE.  Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), which was No. 3 from 2010 to 2019, is way down in No. 8. That should be a cautionary tale for Nissan, which replaced HARI at No. 3 in mid-2019, but has been relegated to No. 5 by Ford, now No. 3, and Suzuki, now no. 4.   GEELY VS KIA. The duel between cellar dwellers Geely (no. 9) and Kia (no. 10) also bears watching.  So far, Sojitz G Auto PH (SGAP), the distributor of Geely has kept the upperhand, selling 1,616 units YTD in April vs Kia’s 1,238 and 1,933 units YTD this May vs Kia’s 1,484.
Both SGAP and Kia sell vehicles made in China.  But SGAP could have read the PH market more accurately  when it brought over only SUVs/crossovers, starting with the compact Coolray, followed by the midsize 7-seat Okavango and then the Azkarra.  
The China-sourced vehicles sold by KP Motors Corp., the PH distributor of Kia, are the entry-level subcompact sedan Soluto, the compact crossover Seltos and the subcompact crossover Stonic. Aside from the Soluto, KP Motors sells 4 other passenger cars, a minivan, two other crossovers, and a light commercial vehicle – all bearing the Kia badge.
Focusing on only 3 models to sell – and all SUVs/crossovers at that –  appears to be giving SGAP an advantage. Established only 2 years ago in March 2019 to import and distribute Geely vehicles here, SGAP has already made it to the Top 10 Sales Performers honor roll.
Another ace up SGAP’s sleeve, which it hasn’t used yet, is the Geely Auto Group’s 99% ownership of Volvo Cars which it purchased from Ford Motor Co. in 2010.  Geely vehicles made in China with the latest Volvo engineering and technology, for export to emerging markets like the Philippines, should energize the post-pandemic car wars here.

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