--Slowdown in auto-loan approval curbing sales growth
--Loan growth has slowed from BRL11 billion in new loans a month in 2010 to BRL7 billion
--Auto makers still see chance for recovery in sales and output
By Paulo Winterstein
(Adds comments from Anfavea starting in the fourth paragraph.)
Brazil motor-vehicle sales fell in April as rising auto-loan defaults led to a constriction in auto credit, while output continued to decline on rising stockpiles and tougher environmental regulation, the Brazilian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, or Anfavea, said Monday.
April sales of cars and light commercial vehicles fell 10.4% from the year-earlier period, while total sales including trucks and buses fell 10.8%. Total sales reached 257,885 units, a 14.2% drop from March. Car and light commercial vehicle sales fell 13.8% from March.
Through the end of April, sales this year are at 1.08 million vehicles, 3.4% less in comparison with the same time last year.
"In 2010 we had credit growth of about 11 billion Brazilian reais ($5.7 billion) a month, then came the macroprudential measures and that fell to about BRL9 billion, and now we're at about BRL7 billion," said Cledorvino Belini, president of Anfavea. "It used to grow 10% and now it's growing 6%. And that's not enough. There's not a lack of money--there's a lot of money-- but the banks are much tougher issuing credit now."
Sales of imported cars continued to decline as a percentage of overall sales after Brazil effectively increased auto import taxes by 30 percentage points at the end of last year. Imported cars accounted for 22.6% of sales, compared with 25.3% in January. The volume of less potent cars also declined, with cars with 1.0 liter engines or smaller reaching the smallest percentage of sales in at least a year. Analysts say that one reason for the surge in imports in recent years was Brazilian consumers seeking cars other than the basic models produced domestically in large scale.
April auto exports continued to climb in terms of value, reaching $1.38 billion in the month. That represents a 5.7% gain from 2011 figures, even as it slowed 4.3% from March exports, Anfavea said.
In the first four months of this year, exports totaled $5.24 billion, a 14% advance over the same period last year.
But as export values rose, due mainly to a better mix of products being sold overseas, auto production fell. Auto output reached 260,825 units, a 7.5% drop from the 2011 month and a 15.5% slump from March.
Truck output, which suffered from tighter environmental rules that went into effect at the start of this year, saw a continued decline. Truck output slumped 27% from March and dropped 23% from April 2011. Truck output is down 30% this year.
Anfavea maintained its expectation of 4% to 5% auto sales growth this year, despite the weak start to the year. The association may revise its estimates after the end of the first half of this year, Belini said.
"We believe the market will recover, despite small volume in the first quarter," he said. "The environment of falling interest rates is very positive, when allied with stable employment and improving wages."
With the recent weakening of the real against the U.S. dollar, demand for trucks and agricultural equipment could recover, since Brazilians will receive more in the local currency for selling commodities abroad, Belini said.
In April, Fiat SpA (F.MI, FIATY) lost market leadership to Volskwagen AG (VOW.XE, VLKAY). Fiat sold 41,430 cars, while Volkswagen managed to sell 42,831 vehicles. Third-place General Motors Co. (GM) sold 33,310 vehicles, while Ford Motor Co. (>> Ford Motor Company), in fourth, sold 19,025 cars.
-By Paulo Winterstein, Dow Jones Newswires; 55-11-8812 5961; firstname.lastname@example.org