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The automotive industry endured a double whammy last month: a two-week reimposition of the hardest lockdown, plus the “Ghost Month” from Aug. 8 to Sept. 6 this year when many people postpone big-ticket purchases like buying a new car.

Against this backdrop, it was hardly surprising that the joint report of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) indicated an 11.5% decline in sales for August 2021 compared to the same period last year.

This August, according to the CAMPI/TMA joint report, total vehicle sales reached 15,847 units versus 17,906 units recorded in August 2020.

CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez attributed the slump to the decline in economic activity and consumer spending which was aggravated by the Enhanced Community Quarantine restrictions in the NCR Plus.  “The message of this bleak performance is worth noting,” he said.  

“Stricter lockdown strategy in response to curbing the COVID-19 pandemic affects the auto industry’s recovery this year.”

Rommel Gutierrez, CAMPI president

Nonetheless, Gutierrez said that the industry is targeting total sales of 295,400 units or 20.9% growth this year compared to actual sales posted last year. 

After all, year-to-date, the industry has sold 170,112 units, a 37.8% increase compared with the 123,489 units posted in the same period last year.

HIT A POTHOLE. Meanwhile, Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said in a statement accompanying AVID’s report of an 18% decline in sales for the month versus August 2020 that “The entire industry hit a pothole in August this year due to the necessary health restrictions.” 

In August, AVID members sold 3,919 units versus 4,753 in the same month last year.  Compared to July this year when 4,862 unit sales were recorded, August sales declined 19%. 

“This slowdown was mainly caused by the sporadic lockdown due to new highs in recorded COVID-19 cases,” Agudo added.  “Despite the slight contraction, the Philippine automotive industry remains on track toward recovery.   We at AVID choose to be optimistic as we approach the final stretch of the year.”

AVID’s optimism is buoyed by the 33% YTD sales increase for the first eight months of 2021 with total sales of 39,011 units versus the 29,363 units sold in the same period in 2020.

THE BIG DIFFERENCE.  The ranking of the Top 10 Sales Performers for August remains exactly the same as that of July except for one big difference.

In the race for the coveted 3rd place now occupied by Suzuki, Ford has cut Suzuki’s lead to only 33 units, whereas in July Suzuki had increased its lead over Ford to 194 units from 132 in June.

You may recall that it was last June when Suzuki replaced Ford at No. 3 by selling 9,987 units versus Ford’s 9,855.
Will Ford succeed in recapturing the No. 3 perch this month?  Whatever happens, the competition for No. 3 has become more exciting as it has narrowed down to only two players: Suzuki and Ford. It’s a match between the Japanese brand specializing in small, affordable, yet sporty-looking cars and the American brand famous for big, brawny trucks and SUVs.

Fifth placer Nissan, which used to be No. 3, is out of the running since as of YTD August it was 1,423 units behind No. 4 Ford.  However, the intro of the all-new Nissan Terra SUV with 360 Safety Shield Technology may help Nissan PH to boost its sales.

CELLAR DWELLERS’ DUEL.  Gaining entry to the Top 10 honor roll signifies a marketing achievement for any brand, even if it means starting as cellar dwellers.

For some time now, the Korean brand Kia, in 10th place, has been trying to climb up to 9th place, but this requires dislodging Geely, the upstart newcomer.

Let’s look back at the history of the two brands in the country.  Kia was relaunched on January 31, 2019 by AC Industrials (now AC Motors), an Ayala Group subsidiary, after acquiring its distributorship.  

Eight months later, on September 25, 2019, Geely Auto officially returned to the PH market as Sojitz G Auto PH (SGAP) in partnership with Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corp.  

Kia broke into the Top 10 at the end of the first semester of 2019. Kia overtook Foton Motor PH by selling 2,396 units versus Foton’s 2,247.  

By year-end 2019, Kia had replaced Foton at 9th place with sales of 5,019 vehicles, an astounding 124.3% triple-digit growth from the 2,238 units sold by former distributor Columbian Autocar at year-end 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, however, stalled Kia’s momentum.  Although Kia hung on to 9th place until the end of the 1st quarter, the lockdown shutting off all economic activity including the auto industry’s operations from mid-March to May caused Kia’s sales to drop below Foton’s, resulting in their switching rankings at the end of the first semester 2020. Kia remained at No. 10 in the 3rd quarter 2020.

ENTER GEELY. When CAMPI reported total vehicle sales for 2020 with Kia selling 2,129 units, a 57.6% plunge from the 5,019 units that Kia scored in 2019, it came to light that Geely, an AVID member, had dislodged Kia from the Top 10 with total sales of 2,158 units for 2020.

Foton, with total sales of 2,456 in 2020, remained in 9th place.

But in January 2021, Kia returned to the Top 10, and as No. 8 at that, by selling 376 units versus Geely’s 339 and Foton’s 177.  Thus, last January, Kia was No. 8, Geely was No. 9, and Foton No. 10.

In February, the last 3 rankings were scrambled anew when Geely ramped up sales to 780 units,  pushing Kia (648 units sold) down from 8th to 10th place and ousting Foton from the Top 10.

Since then, Geely has kept the upperhand, increasing its lead over Kia by 625 units last July, and further to 899 units in August 2021 (see graph.)

But don’t count Kia out yet. KP Motors president Manny Aligada has a game plan to double the brand’s market share.  “We lost market share in 2020,” he said recently. “Now, we have a growth strategy going forward to 2025.”

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