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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Car sales start to grow after a dismal early '09

Car sales start to grow after a dismal early '09

Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Chevrolet distributors see an upswing in business, but some say full recovery is still a long way ahead

I am seeing demand on new cars increase as customers buy new vehicles over old ones."

FOUR leading car dealers in Phnom Penh said Monday they have seen business pick up again after the global economic crisis led to a dismal 2009, with one firm exploring new credit options for buyers in an attempt to increase sales.

Kong Nuon, president of Toyota distributor TTHK Co, said sales had picked up compared to the same period last year, citing improvements in the agriculture and tourism sectors.

“This year sales won’t be as bad as last year,” he said Monday. “Although we are seeing that the property sector has not recovered ... other sectors have.”

Car buyers in the Kingdom have in recent years traditionally funded purchases through profits generated in the agriculture and property sectors in particular.

Sales of new Toyotas – the bestselling cars in the world, despite the recent recall of about 8 million vehicles, mostly due to faulty braking systems – were expected to hit between 600 and 720 units in Cambodia this year, said Kong Nuon.

Total demand for new vehicles was expected to reach about 2,800 units per year, according to a previous estimate by Kong Nuon, with a further 20,000 secondhand vehicles expected to be sold annually.

Nissan’s official reseller, Narita Motorcare Cambodia Co Ltd, which saw sales drop 50 percent last year, has also noticed an improvement so far this year, Managing Director Long Narith said Monday citing an improvement in the general economic climate.

“The global economy is getting better, especially our economy,” he said. “I am seeing demand on new cars increase as customers buy new vehicles over old ones.”

The company plans to import about 500 new vehicles this year, added Long Narith.

Ford dealer RM Asia Manager Seng Voeung said Monday that there is still a long way to go before there can be talk of a full-blown recovery in the auto sector.

“It is a little better but not too much.... The price of cars is still high” for Cambodian buyers, he said.

Sen Voeung warned that a recovery in the auto industry could be hit by government plans reported at the end of last year to raise car taxes based on engine size.

“I think the increase in tax will be a barrier causing customers to hesitate buying new cars,” he said.

Chevrolet dealer Auto Sale Cambodia has seen demand pick up this year, said Manager Chanchal Singh, as the company this week launched a new credit financing system for its vehicles in collaboration with three banks that he declined to name. Under the new credit plan customers would be required to place a 40 percent down payment and would have to show evidence of collateral, said Singh.

“The car business here is growing very fast,” he said.

Other dealers have not experienced the recent upswing, however. Horn Seam, assistant to the director of Ssangyong Motor Co Ltd, said Monday that sales have not recovered, and that the firm is still trying to sell last year’s vehicles.

“I recognise that sales are better now for other companies but my firm remains stagnant because we need to clear stock first before importing new vehicles,” he said.

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