The government remains hopeful the automotive industry will end the year with a positive note but actual sales since the start of the year give no indication a five-percent growth forecast initially set by the Trade and Industry department will be met.
Even a performance to match last year's sales of 124,449 units is uncertain as industry sales have fallen 3.7 percent as of May.
Lexus Manila president Daniel Isla, a veteran in the local motoring industry, said full-year sales will likely dip two to four percent with no saving grace in sight for the market for the rest of 2009-not to mention the recent forecast of the World Bank on the possibility of the Philippines slipping in to recession later this year.
Still, the executive said all hope is not lost and the key to survival is sustainability.
"Can we sustain production to meet the demands of our consumers? Can we sustain employment so that we don't have to downsize our workforce? Can we sustain the company long enough to weather the recession once the economy picks up again?" Isla asked during a forum on the state of the local automotive industry at the launch of the 2009 Auto Focus People's Choice Awards.
While the questions remain unanswered, Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) president Elizabeth H. Lee said the local industry is still better off compared with bigger markets like the United States (down 34 percent in May) and Japan (down 19 percent), and the neighboring countries like Thailand (down 26 percent) and Indonesia (down 29 percent).
"The fact remains that we're still doing relatively better. Three percent is not alarming. ‘Flat is the new growth,'" Lee said.
CAMPI started the year with a two to four percent growth forecast but the figures will be reviewed once the June sales results are complete.