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Putting annus horribilis to bed


Wrapping up 2020 and dreaming of better days

HERE ARE two immutable things (well, okay, one immutable thing and a near certainty): We’re coming to the end of the annus horribilis that is 2020, and vehicle sales are mercifully picking up and, cross your fingers, are actually gaining momentum.

The end of the year — and that the impression that it somehow is expected to bring welcome changes to a woeful trajectory thus far — is, of course, a man-made construct just like time itself. The truth is, we do not know for certain whether we’re seeing the end of the tunnel or staring into the barrel of a gun.

For sure, with vaccines already making their way to select territories, there’s more substance to the hope we’ve been clinging to. On that blessed day we finally get clarity on a schedule, the sooner we can plan our reunions with family and friends we’ve longed to hug and kiss. Businesses can also begin to scale up targets — to say nothing about those that can finally open, period.

Before that day we’ve been praying for, we’ll still be best served by being hopeful because that shapes our disposition and even how we approach each day. We may not be able to control everything tomorrow brings, but we can sure as heck be more ready for both good and bad by keeping rein on what we can govern: ourselves.

Back in April, I wrote of how people were already writing off 2020: “It’s too untenable a year; too memorable for the wrong reasons. Heck, we barely even made it out of the first quarter alive — crawling on all fours into April after a gauntlet of crises rendered us slack-jawed in disbelief. And just when we thought we had endured and passed the worst of it, the invisible monster that is COVID-19 caught us with a haymaker.” I now look back at those words with the benefit of additional months of hindsight. Actually, things got worse after that column: More people got sick and passed on, more businesses shuttered, more people lost jobs.

Speaking of April, when that month was in the rearview mirror, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) registered its lowest-ever consolidated monthly sales output: 133 units.

That woeful figure was a blackeye from a flurry of punches from fears of the pandemic and the closing of showrooms necessitated by the enhanced community quarantine.

Last week, I reached out to CAMPI President Atty. Rommel Gutierrez via text, and he was gracious enough to share his unofficial sales projection in November (see graph). I don’t know if you’d agree with me, but anything north of 20,000 units is a win, methinks. The “recalibrated target” of CAMPI/TMA (factoring in the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors or AVID as well) is 240,000 units by the end of the year, and Atty. Gutierrez said this number “will most likely be reached, if not a little less.”

Looking back at last year, CAMPI/TMA’s December sales totaled 33,715, while the brands of AVID moved 8,089 units during the same month. For some context, AVID’s total in Q3 2020 is 15,471 — or an average of 5,000 a month.

Executives are projecting 2021 to be a recovery period for industries — certainly (or hopefully) much better than this year, but still bereft of the performance vigor of 2019 or 2018. I use “vigor” loosely here, of course. Remember the deleterious effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, which effectively jacked up prices of a lot of automobiles?

Atty. Gutierrez commented, “We foresee a range of 30% to 60% growth next year.” Of course, coming from a base of 240,000, that means a peak of 300,000 units in sales. Compare that to 2019’s consolidated (CAMPI, TMA, and AVID) of 416,637.

Who would have thought we’d one day be pining to have that kind of number again? And let’s also shelve for the moment that holy grail of aspirations: to breach the 500,000 mark in sales.

But I digress. There’s always hope — and that should be enough to sustain us, keep the ardor of our humanity going, and allow us to envision things as just outside our grasp for the moment.

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