The 14,114 new cars in September made it the best month of 2005 so far, according to Econometria, the statistics firm which crunches numbers for the Colombian Automotive Committee.

The ninth month of the year used to be the worst for new car sales as Colombians waited for the brand-new models, traditionally launched in October. But, this year, the strategy changed and last month almost all brands brought out their new wares. So, with help from the good economy, sales grew to a level last seen in 1997.

This is the second month in a row that sales have passed the 14K level, and that could lead to a full year result similar to that for 1997, the best so far, when almost 150,000 vehicles sold.

The 1997 January-September total was 104,854, only 1,174 units more than the same period this year.

Given that the last three months of the year are usually the best for sales, it's possible that the Colombian automotive market could reach or surpass the 1997 record.

Sales in August and September grew 13% and in the next few days the country's Constitutional Court will rule on a constitutional reform proposed by the present government. Analysts have said markets will enter a 'stand by' mode an await events if the Court denies the reform.

The market

Colombian vehicle sales grew 27.9% to 103,680 in the first nine months of 2005. Fiat was the best performing brand measured by growth - up 326.9%.

By the real-world units sold measure, Chevrolet remains leader with 38,149 sales (market share of 36.8%), followed by Renault (16,571 and 16.0%), Hyundai (12,881 and 12.4%), Mazda (6,992 and 6.7%) and Toyota (5,387 and 5.2%).

Local assemblers' sales have reached 68,282 (65.9%) while sellers of imported vehicles posted 35,398 units (34.1%).

Juan Vargas

click table to enlarge