Vehicle sales dropped 17.4 percent to 5,736 units in January 2001 compared with 6,948 units in January 2000, according to figures released by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI).

Passenger cars recorded a 31.8 percent decline and the commercial vehicles sector fell by 10 percent.

Passenger car sales fell to 1,613 from 2,366 a year ago and commercial vehicle sales declined to 4,123 units from 4,582.

CAMPI secretary-general Mario de Grano said that the sharp drop was due to the political situation in the country.

“We said previously that the whole first quarter will be affected by increased interest rates and the peso’s depreciation,” said de Grano.

“But we hope that by the second quarter there will be a favourable effect because of a reduction in interest rates.”

He added that import tariffs are still an issue for truck manufacturers because the rate on completely knocked down (CKD) vehicles had been increased from three to 10 percent.

Toyota led the January market with overall sales of 1,551 units followed by Mitsubishi (1,315), Honda (625) and Isuzu (605).

Ford was in the top five for the first time with 493 vehicles sold but Nissan managed only 331 sales.

The Phillipines vehicle industry is confident that the introduction of new models in February and March will see a considerable improvement in sales, de Grano said.

The sales target for 2001 is 82,500 units, slightly lower than 2000, comprised of 29,000 passenger cars and 53,500 light commercial vehicles, mostly pick-ups.