Sales of a group of vehicle importers plunged 34.4 percent in the first quarter to 14,404 units from a year ago amid the Luzon lockdown designed to control the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
The Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors Inc., which groups 20 member-companies representing 26 global brands, said most if not all dealerships and their accompanying repair and maintenance facilities had been closed since March 16, 2020.
“The local industry is reeling from this invisible enemy as vehicle manufacturing, importation, distribution and maintenance have stopped completely. Demand has likewise declined as consumers spend on more urgent needs. With this disruption, we estimate that car sales may drop by around 40 percent for the year,” AVID president Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said.
“The industry is no stranger to adversity but this pandemic will be our toughest challenge yet. We estimate that it would take at least 12 months for the local industry to recover once the ECQ is completely lifted. There will be a ‘new normal’ and we must be quick to adapt since Filipino consumers will be even more prudent and looking for more value in their purchases,” Agudo said.
Sales of passenger cars declined 43 percent in the first quarter to 4,506 units from 7,848 units in the same period last year. Hyundai led the segment with 2,724 units sold, followed by Suzuki with 1,127 units and Ford with 415 units.
Sales of light commercial vehicles dropped 29 percent to 9,806 units. Ford led the segment with 3,479 units sold, followed by Hyundai with 2,797 units and Suzuki with 2,740 units.
Commercial vehicles sales declined 62 percent to 92 units.
AVID said second-quarter sales could dip even further because of the ECQ for the whole month of April and at least half of May in major urban areas.
It said despite the bleak short-term outlook, many members joined the nation’s battle to fight COVID-19.
Several AVID companies are providing free mobility which includes the transport of frontliners, medical supplies and essential goods across the country. Some members also donated personal protective equipment, masks, gloves, etc. to COVID facilities. Others are supporting their home communities and LGUs.
“Mobility is the lifeblood that drives the nation’s economy and this has been further underscored by this pandemic. Hospitals, groceries, and other essential establishments rely on mobility for sustained operations. We are working closely with our stakeholders so we can resume our operations, especially our repair and maintenance services, in a manner that protects the health and safety of our workforce and customers, once the ECQs and GCQs are lifted,” Agudo said.
AVID member companies have used the lockdown to develop COVID-ready processes, structures and organizations. Health protection and safety strategies are being put in place for employees, business partners and to meet the emerging needs of the customer in the next normal environment.
It said the industry was aware of the protocols on social distancing, including wearing of appropriate protective equipment and additional sanitation measures which it committed to observe.
Some AVID members will be conducting antibody testing prior to the re-entry of their workforce. This will be done as part of Project ARK, a private sector-led initiative to conduct mass testing for the new coronavirus at the community level.
“AVID fully supports the government’s initiatives to combat this pandemic and we remain optimistic and confident in the tried and tested resilience of the Filipino. The timely restart of the automotive sector is of utmost importance to mitigate the impact of this crisis since tens of thousands of Filipinos and their families depend on this sector. There is life after COVID and we will be there to ensure better journeys ahead,” Agudo said.
The Philippine automotive sector, directly and indirectly, employs 408,000 people, based on government data.