The nations' demand for new vehicles this year is expected to grow nearly 15 percent from 2003, despite pre-election uncertainty among consumers, Hotai Motor Co (和泰汽車), a domestic dealer for Japan's Toyota Motor Co, said yesterday.
For the first 10 months this year, the number of locally made vehicles applying for license plates, an indicator of new vehicle sales, grew 18 percent to 407,489 units from a year earlier, according to latest statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
Hotai Motor forecasts the total sales of new vehicles will reach to 470,000 units this year, up from last year's 410,000 units. But the Ministry of Economic Affairs appears more upbeat, predicting sales will reach 500,000 units this year on the back of a strong performance in the first three quarters.
"We are not that optimistic [as the ministry] because we think November sales will be on par with October's levels as potential car buyers may delay their purchase until the dust from the [Dec. 11] legislative elections settles," said Steven Yang (楊湘泉), a spokesman for Hotai Motor.
Yang said October's figures were in line with the company's earlier forecast and he expects the pre-election jitters will hit major auto companies evenly, rather than any particular one.
He, however, dismissed any possible impact arising from yesterday afternoon's High Court ruling on a lawsuit brought out by opposition political parties to nullify the March 20 presidential election.
"The decision is unlikely to have a major impact, although there may be some short-term noise as in the post-election period," he said.
Yang expects domestic sales to level at 450,000 units to 470,000 units annually over the next few years, with Toyota cars having a nearly 27 percent market share.
Consumers generally feel more comfortable about making big purchases this year as the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics forecast Taiwan's GDP will increase 5.87 percent this year. Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said last week that GDP may grow as much as 6 percent this year.
Even so, the number of new vehicle sales fell 4.2 percent to 36,001 units last month from a year earlier, amid a slump in local stock market and the impact of higher oil prices, Yang said.
Kuozui Motors Ltd (國瑞汽車), which assembles Toyota cars, led sales with 11,374 units last month, including 3,114 units of the new Wish minivan. The company began to market the Wish in Taiwan last month, riding on a global trend of increasing demand for recreational vehicles.
Affected by the hot sales of the Toyota Wish, both China Motors Corp (中華汽車), the nation's largest automaker, and Yulon Motor Co (裕隆汽車), Taiwan's third-largest automaker, saw sales drop significantly last month.
China Motors sold 5,240 units last month, a decline of 34.6 percent from a year ago, while Yulon Motor delivered 5,074 units, down 25.2 percent. China Motors manufactures Mitsubishi models and Yulon Motor assembles Nissan vehicles.
The nation's fourth-largest automaker, Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和), registered a year-on-year decline of 4.3 percent with 3,328 units last month, while Mazda Taiwan (馬自達) was the fifth with 1,732 units sold, up 11.6 percent from a year earlier.