Venezuela: Car sales remain in the doldrums in March
April 8, 2014
The free fall in car sales continued in March, plunging 86.1% over the same month last year and reaching just 1,674 units according to figures from the Venezuelan Automotive Chamber (CAVENEZ, Camara Automotriz de Venezuela). The reading followed the 89.9% decline recorded in February, which had marked the sharpest drop since December 2002.
In the 12 months up to March, car sales reached just 76,452 units, which was 37.8% lower than the level observed in the same period last year (February: -31.2% year-on-year) and marked the lowest level since March 2004. Car sales currently total less than a sixth of the 491,899-unit peak recorded in the full year 2007. Extreme supply shortages following government restrictions on both assembly plants and importers have severely hampered sales of vehicles in recent years.
Venezuelan authorities have not released real sector data since 26 November when they published the national accounts for Q3 2013. In addition, the Central Bank has not updated inflation data since December 2013. Instead, the Bank published the January and February data on its website via press releases, which have unusually strong ideological and pro-government wording. This led many analysts to suspect that the government had increased its pressure on the Central Bank, which had always been considered one of the most reliable institutions in Venezuela.
Given the limited availability of timely data for the real sector, analysts often use car sales as a proxy for private consumption. LatinFocus Consensus Forecast panelists expect private consumption to decline 0.4% this year, which is down 0.5 percentage points from the previous month's estimate. In 2015 the panel sees private consumption growth at 2.6%.