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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New car sales improve in Q1

New car sales improve in Q1

Most auto dealers report slight recovery, but Ford says there’s a long road ahead

A NUMBER of dealers in new automobiles reported a rise in quarterly sales Thursday, adding the industry was showing signs of recovery even as more brands enter the marketplace.

Long Narith, managing director of Narita Motorcare Cambodia Co Ltd, which imports Nissan vehicles, said sales had increased 60 percent in the first quarter from the last quarter of 2009.

“There has been a huge increase in auto sales this period,” he said. “Maybe the economy has begun to recover, because now we are seeing people beginning to spend money on new cars.”

Long Narith would not disclose sales numbers, citing confidentiality and the competition, but he said he expected to sell 500 vehicles this year if the sales pace continues.

In the past six months, two new brands have entered the Cambodian market: China’s Great Wall vehicles and Japan’s Subaru, which announced last month it would sell models of the Forester SUV.

Dealers had reported a slump in sales in the wake of the economic downturn in 2008. But early signs of recovery, perhaps prompted by the coming of the Khmer New Year, are emerging.

“The New Year is coming soon, so we hope more vehicles will be sold in the second quarter of this year as well,” Long Narith said.

Horn Seam, a representative Huotraco Automotive, which has imported the South Korean Ssangyong brand since 2007, said Thursday that his company had seen a slight rise in quarterly sales.

“We’ve sold 15 units in the first quarter of this year, two units more than the last quarter of last year,” he said. “Sales increased due to our introduction of the 2010 model. And it’s Khmer New Year in the coming weeks, so people prefer to buy new cars to celebrate the New Year.”

People are beginning to buy more luxury goods, he said, following a drop in sales over the past two years, when the real estate market fell off.

“Because the economy has begun to recover and the agricultural sector is doing well, we expect to sell about 80 units of Ssangyong this year,” he said.

Kong Nuon, president of Toyota (Cambodia) Co Ltd, said Toyota sales also increased but he declined to disclose the figures.

“We are better now, especially from last month, because we’ve seen improvement in many sectors of the country like agriculture, tourism and construction, while many Korean investors have begun resuming development.”

Kong Nuon was optimistic about future growth.

“We will definitely reach our sales target because we’ve seen our sales from January until now continuing to increase,” he said.

The demand for new cars in Cambodia is around 2,800 per year, he said, and people buy around 20,000 secondhand cars annually.

Toyota plans to sell between 600 and 700 vehicles this year, he said.

Toyota has recalled 8 million vehicles worldwide in recent months after revelations of safety defects, but Kong Nuon said none of his customers had been affected.

At least one dealer, Seng Voeung, manager of RM Asia Co Ltd, which sells Ford vehicles, said sales remained stagnant.

“Other dealers say sales are better, which is not right,” he said. “The truth is the industry is not better yet, in my view due to people still keeping their money in the bank,” he said.

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