December 15, 2017, 9:40 pm
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2017 VEHICLE FORECAST: More taxes, less vehicle sales, but traffic the same

Vehicles and still more vehicles.

In 2017, the Philippine automotive industry will feed around 500,000 cars  into the already crowded metropolises of the country, with the National Capital Region receiving anywhere from 78 to 82 percent of the new car sales. This figure extrapolates from the combined end-of-year sales estimates of both the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) and the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID).

On one hand, CAMPI’s president Rommel Gutierrez said during the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show, that his organization would reach the targeted 370,000 units sales by end of 2016. Final sales reports show the number may actually be exceeded due to aggressive 4th quarter performance.

AVID, on the other hand has already practically delivered on its sales target registering a 103 percent sales increase from its members. By the 3rd quarter of the year the organization reported a 27% growth from the previous quarter with a total of 68,746 vehicles sold. Industry experts are confident the group can exceed the fourth quarter and thus the total annual sales because of the massive financing deals from led by Ford, Suzuki and Hyundai. 

It is thus safe to say that if the sales trend continued at the same momentum as it did towards the end of the 3rd quarter, total industry sales combined, would mean about 450,000 new cars, SUV and commercial vehicles crowding into the already tight city streets, oftentimes with no garages to properly park in.

Combine that number with the expected over 1 million motorcycle sales the top 5 brands comprising the Motorcycle Development Program Participants Association (MDPPA)—Honda Philippines Inc., Kawasaki Motors Philippines Inc., Yamaha Motor Philippines Inc., Suzuki Philippines Inc., and Kymco Philippines Inc. expect to achieve this year. In 2015, the MDPPA already sold 850,509 and an estimated 27 percent growth means 1,080,146 sales for 2016.

And the industry is growing and the major players are shifting the playing field. 

The Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program launched towards the end of the Aquino Government is seen by many industry experts as a step that will only boost the competitiveness of the country’s automotive industry by increasing local production volumes.

The updated CARS program now has Toyota Motor Philippines, Inc. (TMPI) joining Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation’s (MMPC) in assembling specific vehicles that will benefit from some P27 billion worth of fiscal and non-fiscal support to both automakers and parts suppliers. 

CARS requires companies who join to produce a total of 200,000 units of a particular vehicle model over a period of six years. Factor in the production volumes by all possible carmakers who apply for the program will mean passenger car production numbers to average 16 to 20 percent over the next five years.

Hyundai Automotive Resources Inc. (HARI) already submitted an application to the Board of Investments (BOI) for a completely knockdown (CKD) kit assembly under the new rules of the Korea and ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (Korea+AFTA) to exported auto components from various sources, including Korea. Sources from HARI have not confirmed the finalization of this assembly but it has already started the prototyping of its vehicle assembly at its Star Motors Manufacturing Corp. plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Malaya Business Insight saw delivery of the popular Eon CKD on the assembly area of Star Motors is owned by Universal Motors Group of which HARI is also part of.  The plant used to assemble Nissan pick-ups and diesel SUVs. 

Insiders at Star Motors have said a totally new line is being installed and the plant has been retooled to put together a yet-to-be confirmed line of Hyundai models beginning with the 800 cc. Eon.

Hyundai Motor, in wire report confirmed HARI’s plan to install a line capable of assembling in between 5,000 and 6,000 vehicle units annually. Experienced engineers from Star Motors will run the assembly that will eventually hit annual production of 40,000 units. It is unclear with HARI will apply for the benefits available in the CARS program. However, if it does increase its production to the 40,000 unit target it can meet the 200,000 volume requirement.

Industry research experts BMI predict that passenger car sales in the will grow an average 24 percent annually throughout the 2017-2020 period. It also expects the local passenger car market to outperform other ASEAN countries over the same period.

Consumer led growth in the Philippines will be supported by subdued inflationary pressures, and attractive borrowing rates and the research firm’s Country Risk team expects inflation to remain within the Central Bank’s 2 to 4 percent target range through to 2020. This boost to consumer spending power also converts to more car sales, with access to cheap credit, with steady interest rates at an average 3 percent over the 2017-2020 period.

But here is where the congestion stops the growth.

Proposals by the Duterte administration to reform the taxes on vehicles will lead to slower car sales after any tax change is made. Carmakers see the proposed auto tax reforms as a downside risk to vehicle sales due to the significant increase in retail prices.

The increased taxes will create an artificial sale increase before any announcement of implementing rules and regulations and car dealers are already making sales preparations and promotions with banks and financing institutions to rush into aggressive sales programs to avert the expected sales slow down. 

This imposition of new excise taxes on brand new vehicle purchases is aimed at raising revenues and to manage vehicle volume on major roads. But the tax would raise costs of up to P400,000 to P600,000.

The Board of Investments (BOI) expects the negative impact on the growth of the country’s booming automotive industry and is studying measures on how to create the necessary balance between the meeting the government’s tax objectives and the progress delivered by automakers.

Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas’ “Proof of Parking Space Act” is also expected to impact on vehicle sales because of the cost of building a garage for both new and currently owned vehicles. Though the proposal was made to drastically reduce the number of vehicles on the road, the garage law also wants to free roads of obstructions that only cause traffic gridlock. The law is applicable only in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and other highly urbanized cities.
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