Auto imports dropped in the second half of 1997 by more than 65 percent compared with the first six months of last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Finance.
About 2,000 vehicles were imported between July and December, far less than the 5,800 automobiles imported during the first half of the year, according to the statistics.
Imports also were down 34 percent from the same period in 1996.
Customs House Port Deputy Chief Kim Nguon said Wednesday the majority of vehicles coming to Cambodia are secondhand. “Very few new cars are imported because of the economic crisis,” he said. “It’s easier to sell secondhand cars.”
Most of the imports, he said, are from the US and Japan.
Salesmen of both new and used cars said business has dropped since the July clashes. They cited both political uncertainties and the regional economic crisis.
At TTHK, a Toyota dealership on Pochentong Boulevard, there has been little good news since July 5. The company’s office was caught in the cross fire during factional fighting, and the residual effects of those clashes has significantly cut sales, said a TTHK representative.
“At the moment business is not good,” he said Tuesday. “It is difficult to sell cars.”
The company sold 89 vehicles last year, less than half of its 1996 total. For several months after the July clashes, sales dropped to just one car a month, although sales picked up toward the end of the year, with four to six cars sold a month.
“I hope [cars] will sell well after elections,” he said. “People will need cars.”
Michael Lam, executive director of Mercedes-Benz dealership Hung Hiep (Cambodia), said the drop in sales is more the result of the regional currency and stocks crisis. Many people who had the money to purchase new cars were investors from Asean countries, including Malaysians and Thais. But with the current crisis, those groups no longer have the cash, he said.
Business seems little better for the used-car market.
At perhaps the largest unofficial used car lot in Phnom Penh, Street 92 in front of the International Youth Club, salesmen of second-hand cars and trucks say business has been slow since the fighting.
One salesmen, who identified himself as Chandarith, said he has been selling second-hand cars on the street for about two years. He now only sells one vehicle a month, down from the four or five cars he could sell earlier last year.
Sellers said with the drop in demand, prices have been slashed by $1,000 to $2,000.
“This is my only livelihood,” Chandarith said. “I hope sales improve soon.”