New-Auto Sales to Close Year With About 80,000 Units
Third Year in a row of Sales Declines
BY JOSÉ L. CARMONA
If the current sales trend continues, Puerto Rico auto distributors will finish 2015 with about 80,000 new units sold, down 9.3% from last year’s 88,200 units, marking the third-con-secutive year of sales declines for the local automotive industry.
After a positive October, local new-auto sales returned to their downward trend in November, the latest monthly sales report by the United Automobile Importers Group (GUIA by its Spanish acronym) revealed.
According to GUIA, some 7,061 new units were sold in Puerto Rico last month, down by 320 units, or 4.3%, from the 7,381 units reported in November 2014. For the year, new-auto sales as of November amounted to 72,066 units, down 6,601 vehicles, or 8.39%.
GUIA President Ricardo García said November was the 19th out of the past 20 months that new-auto sales were below the numbers posted for the same month in the previous year.
“I really don’t know what to expect of December, although it is generally the best month of the year. There should be better performance sales-wise this month over November. If December reflects the same sales trends as the rest of the year, we expect to finish 2015 with between 80,000 and 81,000 new units sold, projecting 9,000 units for this month versus the 9,533 units sold in December of last year,” García told Caribbean Business.
Fueled by a 178.5% increase in fleet sales, new-auto sales in Puerto Rico rose 12.4% in October—so far the local industry’s only positive month of the year. Fleet sales usually peak twice a year, in the winter and summer months, during the local tourism’s high seasons.
“Fleet sales last month basically didn’t reflect any changes with respect to November 2014, which are usually spurred by tourism activity,” García added.
Some 1,442 fleet units were sold last month, up a mere 1.5%, or by 21 units, versus the same month last year. Mean-while, retail sales during November amounted to 5,619 units, down 5.7%, or 341 units, versus the same month last year.
SHAKEUP IN CONSUMER CONFIDENCE
In García’s view, a shakeup in consumer confidence in light of the government’s fiscal crisis amid a protracted economic downturn, along with a population decline due to migration, have affected new-auto sales in Puerto Rico.
“With this fiscal situation, consumers’ pockets have been affected and therefore, they are more cautious in their spending. As a result, there has been an in-crease in the sale of used vehicles. Local auto buyers are also purchasing smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, usually with very thin profit margins for the dealers,” García indicated. “The lower the profits, the less money the dealer has to reinvest.”