Strong Fleet Purchases Help Auto Sales
SAN JUAN – Propelled by a surge in fleet purchases by car rental companies, new-auto sales were up significantly in December, helping finish a challenging 2016 with a bang, the United Automobile Importers Group (GUIA by its Spanish acronym) said Wednesday during its annual press conference.
Ricardo García, president of the group that represents some of the island’s leading auto distributors, said 11,732 new units were sold last month, a whopping 26.4% increase, or 2,449 additional new units than in December 2015.
The number of new units sold in 2016 totaled 86,053, up 5.8%, or 4,696 more than in 2015, when 81,357 were sold.
Forecast for 2017
For 2017, GUIA’s forecast for new-auto sales ranges from 82,000 to 84,000 units.
Some of the factors considered for the forecast included the island’s fiscal scenario and possible measures that may be taken this year to face this situation, which will increase consumer uncertainty, as well as the population decrease experienced in the past years, which is expected to continue throughout 2017.
“Even though in 2016 we experienced a slight sales increase for the first time in three years, it was in fact the third-worst year in recent sales history. Fleet sales reflected the highest percentage increase in 2016, which is considered a reflection of the improvement in the tourism industry and not necessarily a change in the sales pattern of retail customers,” García said.
García said GUIA is confident that the new government can be instrumental to economic development in Puerto Rico.
“Likewise, our business partners, banks and insurance companies have contributed to making the vehicles accessible to Puerto Rican consumers, thus allowing this slight increase,” García added.
Strong fleet sales
In all, some 4,049 fleet units, mostly from Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, were sold last month, up 40.3% from same month in 2015, representing 34.5% of total units sold during the month. For the year, there were 12,229 units sold, up 16.1% from 2015, and representing 14.2% of all new units sold last year.
The strongest months for fleet sales were June (2,034 sold), November (1,720) and December (4,049). Fleet sales usually pick up in the summer and winter, during tourism’s high seasons.
Last year, there was very high demand for rental units from tourists visiting the island. In fact, most auto rental companies had no units available during the holidays.
Last month, some 7,683 retail units were sold, up 20.1% from same month in 2015, representing 65.5% of all units sold in December. For the year, there were 73,824 retail units sold, up 4.2% from 2015, representing 85.4% of all new units sold in 2016.
Japanese brands up 28%
Japanese auto distributors, the dominant group locally, reported 5,739 total units sold in December, a 28% or 1,255-unit increase from same month in 2015, with a 48.9% share of the market.
For the year, Japanese automakers sold 46,219 units, a 4.7%, or 2,087-unit increase, with a 53.7% market share.
Top Japanese sellers in 2016 included Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Infiniti.
Domestics up 17.2%
Cumulative sales by U.S. automakers FCA Group (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram), General Motors (GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac) and Ford (Ford and Lincoln) in December reached 2,278 units, up 17.2%, or 1,332 units, from same month in 2015, with a 19% overall share of the market.
For the year, 14,782 U.S.-branded units were sold, up 1.1%, or by 163 units, with a 17.2% share of the market.
Of the three U.S.-based automakers, only FCA reported positive sales for the year, propelled by its Jeep division. FCA sold 7,831 units, up 10.6%, for a 9.1% market share.
Koreans up 30.8%
Distributors sold 3,278 units from Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia last month, up 30.8% from same month in 2015, with a combined 27.9% market share.
For the year, both Korean brands sold 20,284 units, up 13.8%, for a combined 23.6% market share. Of the two, Hyundai had the strongest showing in 2016, with 11,552 units sold, up 26.1%, or by 2,393 units, with an overall 13.4% share of the market.
Europeans up 0.6%
A combined 489 European-branded vehicles were sold in December, up 0.6% compared with the same month in 2015, for a 4.2% share of the market.
For the year, European brands moved 4,768 units, down 0.3%, or 15 units, with a 5.5% share of the market.
As many as seven European brands, namely Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Maserati and Volvo reported higher sales in 2016 than in the year prior.