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Local Auto Market Flat In 2003

Despite special financing deals and manufacturer rebates, local car sales on a par with 2002; excise tax increase on SUVs a major factor


December 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Sales of new vehicles in Puerto Rico in 2003 are expected to end slightly below last year’s figures, primarily because of the excise tax increase on sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and luxury cars imposed by the Calderon administration in June 2002.

Low interest rates, special financing deals, and manufacturer rebates have helped to cushion the blow of the tax hike on the auto industry. In fact, most luxury brands have seen sales gains of more than 35%.

According to industry leaders, an estimated 121,500 new vehicles are expected to have been sold by year’s end; that is 1.3% below the 123,054 units sold in 2002. Nonetheless, industry insiders say this year’s numbers are good in light of the prevailing weak economy and the excise tax hike.

Since the implementation of the excise tax increase, cars have sold more than SUVs, which include light trucks and minivans. This year, nearly 53.8% of all vehicles sold have been cars and 46.2% SUVs. Before the tax hike, the percentages were skewed in favor of SUVs.

Once again, Toyota will close the year as the best-selling brand on the island, with an estimated 29,000 units sold in 2003, up 8% from last year. Ford will follow with nearly 14,000 and Suzuki will place third with nearly 11,700. Mitsubishi will take fourth place with more than 11,000 units sold, followed by General Motors with 9,500, Nissan with more than 8,000, and DaimlerChrysler with nearly 8,000. Mazda will take eighth place with 5,300 units, followed by Kia and Hyundai with approximately 5,000 units each.

"This year was a great challenge for Bella, but we still achieved a 10% sales increase, which is extraordinary given the trends in the local industry," said Carlos Lopez-Lay, president of local Honda & Acura distributor Bella International Corp.

In the luxury vehicle segment, BMW will lead this year with more than 1,000 units sold, followed by Mercedes-Benz with almost 900, Lexus with more than 800, Acura with close to 700, Infiniti with 450, Audi with 300, Jaguar with 235, Land Rover with 225, and Porsche with 110.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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