The Colombian government has confirmed a COP50bn bailout to help the local auto industry cope with a 20% sales decrease.

The USD200m in aid will be provided in the form of low interest loans to commercial banks to pass on to retail customers.

The bailout is aimed mainly at buyers of locally assembled brands Chevrolet, Mazda and Renault so it will help protect the jobs of about 3,000 workers.

Industry and trade minister Luis Guillermo Plata said "the measures will decrease the monthly payment from COP542,000 to 489,000 for an entry level car costing COP22m."

Oliverio García, executive director of the Colombian Automotive Association (ANDEMOS), told the aid discriminated against imported brands and said: "because the whole market is in peril, the help must cover every single brand".

The Colombian market is expecting to account for 180,000 to 200,000 new vehicles this year compared with 219,500 in 2008.

Juan Vargas