New vehicle sales in the Philippines continued to fall in September 2020, by almost 23% to 24,523 units from 31,820 units in the same month of last year, according to member wholesale data released jointly by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA).

The data did not include non-affiliated brands such as Hyundai, Kia, GM and Subaru, which together accounted for around 11% of the total vehicle market last year.

The Philippines has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and GDP shrank by a record 16.5% year on year in the second quarter as domestic consumption plunged following strict lockdowns imposed in many parts of the country in March, and as exports also declined.

More recent spikes in infections have led to renewed social restrictions in some regions, including Metro Manila, quashing any hope of a quick economic rebound.

In the first nine months of the year, the vehicle market shrank by 45% to 148,012 units from 267,364 units in the same period of last year, with passenger car sales also falling by 45% to 44,079 units while commercial vehicle sales were down by 44% at 103,933 units.

Compared with the previous month's 17,906 units, September sales were up by 37% and CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez was increasingly optimistic that a recovery was in sight. He told reporters he expected the automotive industry to begin to recover by the end of the year but cautioned consumer spending was still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

Both CAMPI and TMA expect their members to sell a combined 240,000 vehicles in the Philippines this year, with Gutierrez pointing out last month the industry was turning to increasingly aggressive sales promotions to achieve the revised targets.