Mexican light-vehicle sales decrease 7.2% y/y in February – preliminary data
Light-vehicle sales in Mexico declined by 7.2% year on year (y/y) in February, according to the preliminary report from the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (Asociación Mexicana de La Industria Automotriz: AMIA), in conjunction with the Mexican Automobile Distributors' Association (Associacion Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores: AMDA). Light-vehicle sales declines y/y in the last months of 2017 brought full-year result down by 4.6% to 1.53 million units, compared with a gain of 18.6% in 2016. The February 2018 result at least eases off the double-digit rate sales declines of recent months, though it is still a drop. The sales were impacted by uncertainty over renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada, and the United States; this situation is now unlikely to be resolved until late this year or possibly 2019. In February 2018, 109,484 light vehicles were sold in Mexico, compared with 117,976 units in the same month of 2017. At a brand level, Nissan continues to lead the market despite a 15.4% y/y sales decline to 25,291 units in February; its Infiniti luxury arm saw sales of 199 units, up 16.4% y/y. General Motors' (GM) sales were down 12.1% y/y in February, after reporting issues in January suggested a 52% decline that month. In February, GM's sales were ahead of the sales of Volkswagen (VW) by 143 units. In the year to date (YTD), GM has sold 24,177 units, down 35% y/y, and is behind VW. In February, VW (15,227 units, down 19.0%) was in second position, followed by Toyota (8,152 units, up 0.2% y/y). Kia pulled up to fourth place for the month, with 7,608 units sold (up 18.5% y/y), ahead of Honda (7,091 units, up 13.5% y/y). Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) managed sixth position in February, only 6 units behind Honda, and Ford dropped to seventh place.
Significance: After the Mexican light-vehicle market returned a steeper sales decline than initially expected in 2017, IHS Markit forecasts sales in 2018 will decrease by about 1.6% to 1.505 million units. Conditions are likely to worsen in 2018, as the lack of resolution of the NAFTA negotiations feeds into the volatility of the Mexican peso against other currencies. This, in turn, will feed into higher inflation rates, which impact disposable income and make cars more expensive. Where the aftermath of inflation is higher, interest rates are hitting affordability on two fronts. Lastly, the political impact of the mid-2018 presidential election may also bench consumers until some degree of clarity is in sight. As a result, while we originally expected that increased competition as Hyundai and Kia built local products would allow for continuous growth, we now expect sales to flatten and see a decline in 2018. Further out, IHS Markit projects a moderate pace of growth to become the trend, with increases of between 1.8% and 2.5% through 2024. A detailed report on February 2018's results will follow when full sales, production, and export data are available.
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