Analysis
20 May 19

Chile: Car import capital of South America

Home to more than 4.5 million cars (approximately one in four inhabitants) made up of 90 different brands from 27 countries, Chile has the fifth largest automobile fleet in Latin America, only behind Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia.

Considering a modest population of around 18 million, this is a considerable size, and most of it is due to the Andean country’s slew of bilateral or regional trade agreements bringing in imports. Among them are those with the European Union, Mercosur, China, India, South Korea, and Mexico.

Despite not producing cars, there are two main advantages in a country like Chile. One is that it has a large selection of brands and models to choose from and the other is that it does not face auto industry protectionism, according to Fleet LatAm advisory board member Franco Capurro Reposi.

“We don’t have high import taxes and this makes the price of new vehicles relatively low as well as stable,” says Mr. Capurro who is also the leasing manager for local vehicle and equipment leasing company Salfa Salinas Y Fabres.

Imports

In 2017, Chile saw a total of US$62.7bn in imports. While China was the leading source bringing in US$15.4bn in product, US imports were US$11.5bn, Brazil US$5.32bn, Argentina US$2.77bn, and Germany US$2.63bn, according to information from MIT Media Lab’s Observatory of Economic Complexity tool.

Vehicle imports, which totaled US$4.28bn, represented the largest share of the market (6.83%). Related imports were US$2.32bn in delivery trucks (3.7%), US$591mn in vehicle parts (0.94%), and US$439mn in tractors (0.70%).

In 2018, the country saw a 5.3% increase in imports, reaching US$68.5bn, and this was led by mineral fuels such as oil. Although vehicles were the second most imported product, the sector remained strong with some US$9bn in activity, 13.1% of all imports.

As for 2019, the market has been showing signs of a slowdown, most recently being March of which sales dropped 9.5% year-over-year.

Chile’s Top 10 vehicle importers in 2018

1

Brazil

US$1.2bn

2

United States

US$966mn

3

China

US$916mn

4

Japan

US$951mn

5

South Korea

US$843mn

6

Mexico

US$705mn

7

Germany

US$609mn

8

Argentina

US$366mn

9

Spain

US$116mn

10

Colombia

US$34.2mn

 

The Makes and Models

In 2018, Chile reported 417,354 new vehicle registrations, an increase of 15% year-over-year and the leading brand was Chevrolet.


As for light passenger vehicles (excluding pickups), Suzuki, Kia, Hyundai, Chevrolet, and Nissan did well. The best-selling models (including cars, pickups, and SUVs), were the Mitsubishi L200, Chevrolet Sail, Kia Rio, Kia Morning, and Toyota Hilux.

As for corporate vehicles, only about 7% of the light passenger cars in the country are for corporate use. Commercial vehicles such as LCVs and Pickups, however, account for just over a quarter of those being imported and among them with high demand are the Hundai Tucson SUV and sedans produced by Volvo and Audi.

LCVs (excluding pickups) such as the Peugeot Partner, Kia Frontier, Citroën Berlingo, Foton Midi, and Chevrolet N300 are also popular.

For more information on the Chilean vehicle and mobility market, visit Fleet LatAm’s Wikifleet page on Chile.

 

Authored by: Daniel Bland
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