Colombian vehicle sales down on Uber restrictions, fewer bus imports

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Colombian vehicle sales are down in the first half of this year compared with 2014, in part due to new restrictions related to the use of Uber, in part due to fewer imports of public transportation buses, and in part for cyclical reasons, an official from the country’s National Federation of Merchants said.

Vehicle registrations between January and June, including automobiles which by far make up the largest category, are down 5.7 percent from a year earlier to 135,644, according to information provided during a telephone conversation from Bogota by Sara Illidge, an official at this guild known as Fenalco for its Spanish language acronym.

Some 300,000 units are projected to be sold this year, down from a record 326,023 new vehicle registrations in 2014, she said.

Illidge said the market has behaved cyclically for the past years, going down one year and higher the next. In 2012, there were 310,464 vehicles registered which fell to 294,362 in the following year. Auto fairs, which can significantly push sales higher, are held in November of each even-numbered year and contributed to higher volumes in 2012 and 2014. She anticipates this will have a positive impact on 2016 sales, she said.

Part of the reason for fewer new vehicle registrations this year compared with 2014 has to do with the Uber application to locate taxi services.

“The application started to be widely used in Colombia in 2013 and 2014 when there were no specially enacted legislation and many people bought vehicles” to take advantage of opportunities as a considerable portion of the market for traditional taxis had gone to those who offered their services through Uber, she said.

However, in February of this year the country's transportation authorities enacted legislation that in part restricts the number of vehicles that can offer services through Uber. 

“That has slowed down the business somewhat,” she said.

Another considerable reduction in business came from fewer imports of buses used for public transportation. In 2014, a large number of new buses were imported so that they could be incorporated into the local network but it was a one-time event that will not be repeated this year, she said.

In April 2014, 912 buses were registered. The number for April of this year was 202, she said.

In addition, some consumers believe vehicles are more expensive because of a depreciation of the local peso against the U.S. dollar, even though that is not the case, she added.

In Colombia, the biggest selling vehicle brands are Chevrolet and Renault, both of which have assembly plants in the country. In June, Chevrolet had 24.4 percent of the market followed by Renault with 16.3 percent. They are followed by Kia and Nissan, she said.

About 80 percent of auto brands worldwide are present in Colombia, she said.