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Car import volumes driven down

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An employee inspects auto parts on the production line of Iwaki Diecast Company's plant in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. BLOOMBERG

HIGH prices and Japan’s earthquake hit the Kingdom’s auto imports, as volumes fell 8 percent in the first four months of 2011, according to figures from Commerce Ministry’s Camcontrol department.

Almost 7,700 vehicles entered Cambodia as of April 30 this year, a noticeable decline from the 8,350 imported in the same period last year. But at the same time, revenues generated from sales reached $73.5 million during the year’s first four months, up from $63 million in 2010.

The inverse relationship between imports and revenues was the direct result of the type of car brought into Cambodia, according to Camcontrol. Imported vehicles are increasingly the latest models, and therefore more expensive.

“So it reduces the quantity, but the price is on the rise,” said Khuon Savuth, Director at Camcontrol’s Office of Statistics.

The March 11 earthquake and resultant tsunami that struck Japan also weighed on imports, he said.

In addition to traditional vehicles, those imports also included passenger buses, tourism cars and lorries from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Long Sarith, Managing Director at Narita Motorcare Cambodia, which sells new Nissans, said his imports dropped 60 percent from the 30 to 40 vehicles he typically receives each month. He pointed to the Japanese disaster as the reason for the decline.

“Demand from customers is high, but I don’t have the supply because automakers in Japan have suspended their production,” he said, adding he expected the business to rebound as that production was starting again.

Long Sarith also said that consumers are increasingly interested in new-model vehicles, hence their effect on recent import figures.

Some auto sellers saw no change in their business through April, but predicted things would soon change for them as well.

Kong Nuon, Director for Toyota Company Cambodia, said he continues to import 40 to 50 new autos a month, though he guessed this year’s imports would fail to outpace those of 2010.

“My imports will go down in the future because the automakers’ production capacity isn’t enough to meet demand,” he said.

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