After five months of 2009, sales here in Colombia were down 23% but the premium segment was unusually busy with new facilities and model launches.

Though growth in the economy was near zero and the US dollar exchange rate unpredictable (in six months the greenback has dropped from almost COP2,600 to COP 2,000 now), sellers of premium cars have been spending hard anyway.

Local distributor Autogermana inaugurated a new 'welt' (world) for BMW group brands in Bogotá. Following an investment of over $5m, it has a new 8,000 square metre showroom complex in the city's north.

Three months ago, Mercedes-Benz launched a promotion that boosted monthly sales to more than 200 vehicles and, in May, Audi launched its new Q5 SUV.

Also last month, while BMW launched its new Z4, Maserati and Ferrari opened their first dealership in Colombia and Porsche inaugurated a new, 3,000 sq m sales centre costing $2.5m.

Meanwhile, amongst more ordinary brands, market leader Chevrolet achieved almost 40% of market share and Kia (4.7%) is now fifth and threatening to overtake Mazda (5.0%).

Renault sales hit 800 vehicles a month thanks to the new Symbol (Clio sedan), assembled in Argentina.

Ford, under the new management of Luz Elena del Castillo, has doubled its market share to 2.1% and now is in the top 10.

Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge have just 0.7% of market share but the Dodge Journey SUV has boosted sales 33% YTD.

Juan Vargas