Auto sales in Puerto Rico continued their downward trend in Spetember, when 8.1 percent fewer vehicles went to new owners, marking the eighth consecutive month of this year showing negative results, according to numbers released Thursday by the United Automobile Importers Group.
The organization known as GUIA for its initials in Spanish represents the Puerto Rico automotive industry and tracks monthly sales in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On Thursday, the group expressed concern over the sustained contraction in sales, which in September totaled 6,669 units or 588 less than the same month last year.
During the last quarter (July-September) the local auto industry has seen a contraction of 16.9 percent, or 4,069 units less than the same quarter in 2013, GUIA’s numbers showed.
The trade group further noted that island consumers are reflecting a shift in car buying preferences, as almost all market segments showed sales drops in September. Among the exceptions is the mini-compact car segment that accounted for 28.4 percent of the volume and reflected an increase of 8.1 percent in the quarter, as it represents the lowest-priced cars available in the market, GUIA officials said.
Furthermore, the segments representing the greatest sales volumes — sub-compact, with 20.6 percent of the market, and compact SUV’s, with 20.2 percent of the market — reflected a contraction of 9.7 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively.
The three segments comprise 70.4 percent of the cars sold in Puerto Rico and represent the lower prices, so their performance reflects “a clear indication of the deterioration in the purchasing power of local consumers and their inclination to invest in lower-priced cars.”
Given the economic uncertainty experienced at all levels, GUIA does not expect the trend to change.
“The auto industry is in a difficult historical moment, with a projected year-end sales of 85,000 units,” said Jose Ordeix, president of GUIA.
“It must be noted that the sales recorded are in a context in which they are concentrated, not only in segments of less value, but in a universe of consumers that has been drastically reduced by several factors, including the reduction of the population through increasing migration off the island, which directly correlates to the increase used car sales.”
Finally, GUIA noted that fleet sales — which at times have acted as a buffer for sales drops in other segments — reflected a 12.9 percent contraction during the quarter.