At just-auto, we pride ourselves on the depth and breadth of content available to you, the end user and fellow industry professional. Our global outlook means looking at small markets as well as large ones. We have all seen how events in the Middle East have taken a turn for the worse lately. Aside from the human costs, all apects of economic activity in the region will be harmed by continuing uncertainty and the atmosphere of crisis, including the auto industry. We hope that peace will win out in the end. This feature looks at the state of the auto market in Israel.

Last week, Delek Motors, one of the leading car importers in Israel, launched the Mazda Premacy, a small Mini Van. "According to our philosophy there will be a lot of versions," said Gil Agmon Delek Motors CEO with a light smile. He knew, as everybody else, that the Mazda Premacy will be sold in one version only: 1.8 L, automatic, 'fully equipped' as he likes to say, which means 4 electric windows, electric side mirrors, 4 Air bags, ABS, electric sun roof, etc. Of course, in Japan and Europe you are able to find some more versions of that model but not in Israel, a country where the rarity of versions contribute to their success in the market.

The Israeli car market is booming this year with increase of some 30% in sales to over 120,000 new vehicles in the first 9 months of the year. It comes after 3 years of low sales and without growth. There are a lot of reasons for that surge but two obvious reasons are the strength of the Israeli currency, which was up against the Euro by almost 20% in the last 12 months and the rapid growth of the Hi-Tech industry where every new programmer gets a new car, mostly Mazda Lantis (323).

Mazda Lantis

During the 90s, after the decline of Subaru and the rise and fall of Mitsubishi, Mazda became the most popular car in Israel and in the first 8 months of 2000 it sold 15,105 (13.8% market share) vehicles including 10,105 Lantis. Hyundai is in second place with 8,981 vehicles and Renault is 3rd with 8,870 vehicles. Mazda Lantis is of course the most popular car followed by Hyundai Accent and Toyota Corolla (some normality for the European reader…).

But the most remarkable shift in the market was the strength of the European manufacturers. This came about because there is no local manufacturer in Israel, and the car market is heavily influenced by the exchange rate. So after the dramatic decline of European currencies against the Israeli Shekel, European cars became relatively cheap and were able to increase their market share from 39.10% in the first 8 months of '99 to 46.6% for the same period this year. Accordingly, the market share of Japanese cars dropped from 41.9% to 31.4%.

Ford Focus

Those numbers enabled the new Ford Motor Company dealer in Israel to launch the Ford Focus very aggressively. The new dealer is Delek Motors, the same dealer as for Mazda, so you won't find a lot of versions of Focus and all of them with 1.6L engine. Delek Motors sold over 5,000 Ford vehicles to August 2000 and will finish the year with record sales for Ford since its inception in Palestine-Israel in 1936. The Focus will probably finish the year in 5th place among the popular cars.

So the Israeli car market is booming but with the current crisis in the Hi-Tech industry and the Mid-East crisis no one can tell for how long.

Brands to 8/2000

1. Mazda
2. Hyundai
3. Renault
4. Volkswagen
5. Toyota
6. Fiat
7. Mitsubishi
8. Peugeot
9. Ford
10. Citroen

Source: Data by the association of cars importers in Israel

Popular Cars to 8/2000

1. Mazda Lantis
2. Hyundai Accent
3. Toyota Corolla
4. Fiat Punto
5. Ford Focus
6. Suzuki Baleno
7. Renault Megane
8. Volkswagen Golf
9. Daweoo Lanos
10. Renault Clio

Source: Data by the association of cars importers in Israel

Author: Ya'acov Zalel

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