By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
Vehicle registrations hit an all-time high in many segments in March, showing mixed responses to the intended outcomes of the interim budget, according to data compiled by stockbrokerage JB Securities (Pvt) Ltd.
Car registrations significantly increased to 5,856 from 4,138 in February, and 1,693 units year-on-year (yoy). Brand new registrations hit a record of 3,316, from 1,920 units in February and 554 units yoy.
“The tax on small cars was reduced marginally to 135 percent and coupled with lower leasing and fuel costs are propelling demand,” JB Securities CEO Murtaza Jafferjee said.
Small cars accounted for 3,016 registrations, up from 1,622 in February and 255 yoy. Maruti accounted for 2,531 units driven by Altos, up from 1,496 in February and 234 yoy, while Micro accounted for 479 units, most of them Pandas, increasing threefold from 142 in February and 85 yoy.
Pre-owned cars recorded 2,540 units, up slightly from 2,218 units in February and 1,139 units yoy. Hybrids accounted for a large share with 1,609 Toyota registrations, of which were 757 Aquas, 368 Priuses and 331 Axios. Honda claimed another 800 registrations with 636 Fits and 123 Graces.
Premium car registrations fell to 93 from 104 in February and 59 yoy. Mercedez accounted for 35 new and 17 pre-owned vehicles dominated by C and E Classes, while BMW accounted for 21 new and 9 pre-owned with a majority of 3 and 5 Series.
SUV registrations edged up to 847 from 818 units in February and 334 yoy, while falling from the record 1,600 levels in December and January. Making up the numbers were 110 Toyotas with 47 Prados and 140 Mitsubishis of which 25 were Monteros and 94 Outlander plug-in hybrids.
Jafferjee said that Prado registrations will pickup, since one model falls below the US$ 35,000 threshold and can be imported under the public servant limit.
Hybrids registrations increased to 2,916 from 2,727 units in February and 904 yoy, but remained below the record 4,320 in January. While the fall is due to the increase in hybrid taxes, Jafferjee also opined that the current numbers may not reflect actual demand, as most registrations could be cars only being cleared from the port now. Electric car registrations increased to a record 29 from 13 in February and 6 yoy. Nissan Leaf kept its dominance with 27 registrations. The reduction of taxes on electric cars to just 5 percent may explain the increase. “If this trend continues, demand from Sri Lanka may increase auction prices for Nissan Leafs in Japan – thus if you are thinking about importing one, best done sooner for the price will go up,” Jafferjee said.
The 3-wheeler segment had a record 12,347 registrations from 7,794 units in February and 6,025 units yoy. Bajaj remained on top with 10,933 of the total.
Jafferjee said that the rise was a surprise, since the 3-wheeler market had matured. However, he speculated that government servants could be purchasing them for a personal vehicle. He also said that this could translate to the demand of other durable goods, leading to a larger trade deficit. “The Prime Minister at many forums has stated the justification for the increase in public sector wages was to act as a stimulus to increase aggregate demand, but if the 3-wheeler demand jump is an indication then the extra income may go into durables and the envisaged multiplier within the domestic economic will be less,” he said. Two-wheeler registrations hit a record 42,221 from 25,155 in February and 15,997 yoy. Bajaj accounted for 22,782, Hero 7,560 and Honda another 6,791. Jafferjee said that this could be one of the final batches of the giveaways to police officers promised by the former President. Pickup truck registrations moderated to 496 from 518 in February and up from 191 units yoy. Toyota accounted for 140 units, Tata 269 units and Mitsubishi 54 units. Jafferjee said that the government continued to purchase buses for the CTB, with registrations up to 391 from 201 in February and 221 yoy.