AUTOMOBILES sold in January fell by double digits from a month and a year earlier, according to data from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), which blamed the recent Taal Volcano eruption for the drop.

In a joint report released on Tuesday, the two groups said car sales last month reached 23,723 units, a 29.6-percent decrease from the 33,715 posted in December and down 11.8 percent from the 26,888 in January 2019.

Campi President Rommel Gutierrez said the industry had expected sales to dip due to the negative impact of the January 12 eruption.

“Majority of [the automobile] plants and some dealerships located in South Luzon were badly hit by [the] ashfall, [which also affected] operations in some areas of Metro Manila,” Gutierrez said.

“Some companies were also forced to…suspend its operations for safety reasons,” he added.

Sales of passenger cars slipped by 22.9 percent to 6,543 units in the first month of 2020 from the year-earlier 8,487, while those of commercial vehicles dipped by 6.6 percent to 17,180 from 18,401 year-on-year.

Sales of light commercial vehicles also slid by 7 percent to 13,988 in January from 15,307 the year before, but those of Asian utility vehicles rose by 2.9 percent to 2,479 from 2,410 in 2018.

The number of light trucks sold plunged by 28.7 percent to 365 units from the year-before 512.

Trucks and buses (Category 4) also saw sales tumble by 29.8 percent to 233 units from 332, but those in Category 5 increased by 4.5 percent to 115 from 110.

Toyota Motors Philippines Corp. remained the industry leader in January, with a 37.47-percent market share. Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. came in second with a 21.12-percent share; Nissan Philippines Inc., 11.91 percent; Honda Cars Philippines Inc., 7.46 percent; and Ford Motor Company Philippines Inc., 6.29 percent.

Despite the sales decline, Gutierrez said the sector was “brimming with optimism” that recovery was underway with the resumption of operations.

“We will continue to work double time to catch up on last month’s losses,” he added.