Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Automakers seek to boost sales

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Local automakers are coming up with a slew of new promotional ideas to revive sluggish sales.

China Motor Corp (中華汽車), the nation's No. 2 automaker, hopes combining technology with automobiles will lure younger and fashion-conscious drivers.

The company launched a limited edition of its Mitsubishi Lancer iCon sedan earlier this week.

The vehicles are the first locally assembled cars with an integrated music panel for Apple Computer Inc's iPod digital music players.

China Motor said it expects the 1,000-unit quota of the 1.6-liter Lancer iCons, priced at NT$499,000 (US$15,923), to sell out within three months.

"IPods are such a red-hot gadget in the market nowadays, and our marketing strategy is to link technology with cars to target younger drivers," said China Motor spokesman Hsu Li-min (許利民) in a telephone interview yesterday.

Collaboration across different industries, in this case with Apple Computer Taiwan, would be a win-win for both parties, he said.

Carmakers are trying hard to boost sales, which have been declining over the past few months. According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, auto sales plunged 27.7 percent last month from the same period a year earlier.

Total sales for the first four months of the year fell 24.4 percent compared to last year, with Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和) and Yulon Nissan Motor Co (裕隆日產) reporting the highest declines of around 35 percent.

Though purchasing sentiment showed signs of improvement this month, Hsu said it was premature to comment how the second quarter would turn out.

"Rising consumer debt in the first three months resulted in banks tightening up their loan approval rates, which had a huge impact on the car market," he said, adding that vendors have been more cautious on the outlook.

China Motor is set to cut its annual sales target this year from an earlier

figure of 88,000 units, but the exact number would not be announced until

the company's board gives its approval, Hsu said.

He expected that total sales for the whole industry this year will hover

around the 420,000-unit mark, compared to the optimistic estimate of 500,000

units set by the industry at the beginning of the year.

Last year, auto sales smashing a 10-year record to surpassed 500,000 units,

reaching 514,626 units, a 6.3 percent increase from 484,286 units sold in

2004, according to the ministry's data.

The brisk figure was stimulated by automakers' aggressive zero-percent

financing programs and growth in demand for recreational and utility

vehicles.

Meanwhile, Ford Lio Ho Motor has taken a more conventional approach to

boosting sales by offering buyers rebate on their purchases this month based

on the mileage of their current cars. The offer is targeted at consumers

seeking to upgrade their current vehicles.

The discount could be as much as 10 percent of the retail prices of the new

cars, Ford Lio Ho said.

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