New car sales in Puerto Rico reflected a 66% year-over-year drop in March, slammed by the strict emergency measures in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 virus, industry officials confirmed.
The United Automobile Importers Group, known as GUIA in Spanish, confirmed that 3,154 units were sold in March, compared to 9,309 new cars sold in same month last year.
With those results, the totals for the first quarter show a reduction of 27.8%. The fleet segment showed a 48.7% contraction during the first quarter, the trade group said.
“With a 66% drop in March, it’s evident that the auto industry has been greatly affected by the remnants of earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and by the measures that have been taken to close operations to avoid contagion,” said GUIA President Ricardo García.
“March’s totals are the worst since September 2017, when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck Puerto Rico. We already know there will be another atrocious impact on our businesses in April, and it will surely be the worst two months on record,” he said.
However, he said “more than the economy, the important thing is to save lives and protect the health of our customers and employees.”
“When the risk decreases and we can reopen completely, it will be crucial that solutions that revive the economy are aggressively addressed. We’re confident that the government will work hand in hand with us and will consider our suggestions to begin charting the path to recovery,” García said.
He said global estimates show that vehicle demand may drop between 22% and 27% this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That would be dire for the local economy as the auto industry is one of the largest contributors to government revenue. In Puerto Rico, it doesn’t have to be the case if the government makes the right decisions now,” García concluded.
GUIA is an independent, nonprofit organization that was created in 2006 to address issues that directly concern the automotive industry, as well as issues related to Puerto Rico’s general economy.