GDP growth of 4.5% last year and and a healthy 2010 market led to the best January on record for new vehicle sales in Colombia - month on month growth of 40.5% to 20,771 (14,778 in Jan '10).

The best performing segments were vans (+93.7%), trucks (+80.2%) and pickup trucks (+66.6%) due to the the growing economy and, in the case of vans and pickup trucks, the purchase of extra vehicles to avoid the two days a week restriction in Bogotá.

Bogotá accounts for 46% of automotive sales and endless traffic jams prodded the mayor to impose the two day ban. Passenger car sales alone grew 37.6% to 11,029, according to Econometría.

Continuing the trend of recent years, locally assembled cars (Chevrolet, Renault and Mazda) took a market share of 41% while more than 40 imported brands accounted for the rest.

The top 10 best performing brands were: Land Rover, 400%; Jeep, 352.9%; Skoda, 350.0%; Peugeot, 234.4%; Citroën, 135.7%; Nissan, 119.7%; Fiat, 115.0%; Toyota, 98.9%; Mercedes Benz (trucks and passenger cars), 93.2%, and Ford, 68.7%.

On the other hand, the worst performing were Chrysler, -100.0%; Dodge, -68.2%; Jaguar, -50.0%; Seat, -50.0%; Chana, -45.2%; Audi, -36.9%; Subaru, -27.0%; Mitsubishi, -26.1%; BMW, -14.7%; and Ssangyong, -11.6%.

Market share leaders were Chevrolet, 34.3%; Renault, 13.6%; Kia, 9.2%; Hyundai, 9.1%; Nissan, 6.5%; Toyota, 5.8%; Mazda, 4.7%; Volkswagen, 2.4%; Ford, 2.0%; and Mercedes Benz, 0.7%.

After this good start, analysts forecast a 2011 year with sales between 254,000 and 300,000.

Colombia has also seen the launch of its first bank specialising in car loans: Finandina.

Started 35 years ago as a ‘commerce financial company’ to lend money for diverse purposes, it has focused increasingly in the last 20 years on vehicle loans, funding its operation primarily with bonds.

Now, as a bank, Finandina will be able to raise money from people through savings accounts and checking accounts so it will grow its operations countrywide with more products and services.

One shareholder since 2008 is International Finance Corporation and the new bank also has local alliances with BMW financial services and John Deere Financial.

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