The Road ahead

Industry players look to 2019

By Brian Bonitto
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment

Friday, January 04, 2019

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MAJOR players in Jamaica's automotive sector are cautiously optimistic about what the year ahead holds for them.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine, Lynvalle Hamilton, president of the Jamaica Used-Car Dealers' Association (JUCDA), — says despite the bumps his group encountered in 2018, he expects 2019 to be good.

“2019, I suspect, could be a good year... the prices of the vehicles are coming down given that there is a shape change. Also, some suppliers are giving vehicles on consignment... So outside of the government coming up with some policy that would have a deleterious effect on the used-car sector, it [2019] would be most favourable,” he said.

Hamilton , who is also principal of Corporate Area-based dealership Auto Channel Limited, had a bumpy start to 2018. He had raised the alarm about the negative effects the pre-shipment inspection policy, introduced by the government in February, was having on the used-car sector.

“We saw the pre-shipment inspection of used cars pushing up the cost of imported vehicles. However, the suppliers really worked with us and absorbed some of the costs. There was also the opening up of the Singapore market, as well as the Government's relaxation of the importation of underage vehicles, nine- and 10-year-olds which bolstered the taxi service. Those things really allowed the industry to stay afloat,” he said.

Long-time Auto Dealers' Association (ADA) chairman Kent LaCroix gave 2018 a thumbsup even as he looked to 2019.

“2018 was a reasonably good year, in terms of the numbers,” said LaCroix, while admitting he was awaiting the December figures. “But based on November figures, it was quite good.”

The ADA chairman said that a fluctuating dollar would pose a significant challenge to his group, as it would affect the cost of new vehicles.

“For 2019, if the currency remains stable, that will allow us to do some good business,” he said.

Meanwhile, John Ralston, chairman of the newly formed New Car Dealers' Association of Jamaica (NCDAJ), sees 2019 as one filled with opportunities.

“I believe new cars and trucks will do well in 2019,” he said.

Ralston is managing director of Tank-Weld. His company is the authorised dealers of the Chinese-made Shacman trucks. Last year, the company sold 270 trucks.

“There is a need for commercial vehicles,” he informed.

Ralston said the NCDAJ would be pushing electric vehicles in the coming year, as well as the benefits of owning new cars as against used ones as interest rates were trending downwards.

Formed in April last year, the NCDAJ's membership comprises 65 per cent of the island's market share. Its members include KIG, Toyota Jamaica and ATL Automotive.

“We'll be opening up our membership,” Ralston added.

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