Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Auto market sales post healthy growth despite saturation

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite high saturation, new car registrations last year demonstrated healthy annual growth, surpassing 500,000 units for the first time since 1995, the latest government statistics showed.

Total automobile sales in Taiwan hit 514,626 units last year, up 6.3 percent compared with 484,286 units in 2004, according to the statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

Hotai Motor Co (和泰汽車) cemented its leadership with 150,324 units, translating into a market share of 29.2 percent.

`Record high'

"This is a record high for us, which let us successfully remain the No. 1 vendor in the market for four straight years," Hotai Motor said in a statement that was released yesterday.

In contrast, China Motor Corp (中華汽車) and Yulon Nissan Motor Co (裕隆日產) were the only two companies to report a decline in sales among the top-five automakers.

China Motor, in the No. 2 position, sold 86,661 vehicles, marking a decline from 89,252 units in 2004.

Yulon Nissan came in third at 65,292 units, down from 70,316 a year ago.

Volumes of Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和) and Mazda Taiwan were 55,283 and 29,997 units respectively.

"Last year's sales were slightly behind our target of 67,000 units. We weren't very satisfied with the performance ... amid the price wars to boost sales, we wanted to hold onto profits instead," Yulon Nissan's new president Jack Wu (吳新發) said.

As the past two years were a peak for the number of drivers changing vehicles, the nation's market has become saturated, he added.

"Though vendors will launch a slew of new models this year, we expect the market size will reach between 490,000 and 500,000 units," Wu said, adding that the company will move toward the sales target of 70,000 vehicles this year.

Looking ahead

Yulon Nissan is not the only vendor saying that total volume this year will remain flat to last year's. Mazda Taiwan also expects this to happen.

"We don't see any big surprises to further lift up volume this year, except that more and more younger buyers will purchase cars which cater to their tastes," said an official from Mazda Taiwan who requested anonymity.

Mazda Taiwan -- which recorded sales growth of 20.8 percent last year -- expects the strong momentum to continue this year, driven by its hot recreational vehicle the Mazda5, the official added.

"Local consumers are now recognizing our brand and image, and our Mazda3 sedan was the main item fueling our sales last year," he said.

Meanwhile, China Motor forecast that its sales this year will reach at least 80,000 units.

Rivals Hotai Motor and Ford Lio Ho projected that they would maintain last year's levels, selling 150,000 and 55,000 units, respectively.

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