Last weekend Barack Obama announced at the Americas Summit held in Cartagena/Colombia that the FTA signed with the Andean country will start next month. Even though this was good news for the automotive market, it had been the object of speculation for the last two months.

That’s why automotive sales in Colombia slowed 5.5% March to March, despite good economic announcements, in which the government said the country’s GDP grew 6%. In order to control the currency value against the US dollar, (up 10% so far this year) authorities increased the interbank credit rate 0.25%.

According to Econometria staticians, Q1 sales were up 4% year on year pulled by commercial vehicles like trucks (+111%), vans (+36%), buses (+26%) and SUVs (+6%). The two best performing brands YTD are Freightliner (+256%) and Mack (180%) both heavy truck brands,  which are bought to carry mined products like coal from the country’s centre to the ports. On the other hand, pickup trucks decreased 12%; passenger cars, 7%; and taxis, 5%.

Taking into account the 81,802 units sold in Q1, locally assembled vehicles took 34.4% of the market; just a couple of years ago, Colombian factories had 50% but revaluation made their products less competitive and the importers have 65.6% nowadays.

The fastest growing passenger brands are imported: Geely (130.3%), Land Rover (83.7%), Lifan (61.9%), Jeep (58.1%) and Ssangyong (49.9%). In consequence assemblers are decreasing: Chevrolet (-7.9%), Renault (-24.9%) and Mazda (-22.7%).

The top 10 according to market share is: Chevrolet, 29.2%; Renault, 12.3%; Hyundai, 10.0%; Nissan, 8,6%; Kia, 8.6%; Toyota, 4.0%; Mazda, 3.1%; Ford, 2.8%; Volkswagen, 2.8%; and Ssangyong, 0.9%.

Last month the market saw some launches: the new BMW 3 series, the Hyundai Genesis, the Citroën C4, the new Jeep Wrangler with Pentastar engine and the Honda CR-V.

From 15 May, when the FTA with the US starts, SUVs with engines over three litres can be imported with no tariffs (35% and 45%, depending on the FOB value). Other vehicles will have tariffs reduced by 3.5% every year for the next 10 years.