Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/11/2012 -- The Argentine autos sector is heading for a moderation in 2012, both in terms of domestic sales as well as production. Estimates from the Argentine carmakers' association, ADEFA, show that demand for new vehicles grew only 5.3% y-o-y, after a robust 26.5% y-o-y growth in 2011. Meanwhile, vehicle production fell 4% y-o-y, to 67,667 units in March taking Q112 cumulative production up only 2.7% y-oy, to 163,837, after a 15.6% y-o-y growth in 2011. A major dampener for vehicle demand will be the restrictions on consumer goods imports enforced by the government in January 2012. BMI expects that the regulations, which call for companies to file online affidavits and wait for government approval for their imports, to create significant vehicle shortages, possibly leading to a spike in prices. Meanwhile, our Macroeconomic team expects inflation to remain high, at over 20%, in 2012, which will reduce consumers' disposable incomes and thus spending on bigticket prices. We accordingly forecast a cautious 7.3% y-o-y growth in new vehicle demand in 2012. Meanwhile, we have revised down our production forecast for 2012 from 7% y-o-y expected earlier to under 5%, on the back of our cautious outlook for both domestic and export demand this year. However, there is one growth opportunity for Argentine carmakers in the immediate term. The Brazilian government is looking to restrict vehicle imports from Mexico, which could lead to a 35% import tax and an industrial production tax of up to 41% being imposed on Mexican exports to Brazil. Argentine carmakers may rush to shift a greater proportion of their production to Brazil with the view to replace Mexican imports. Some help will also come from the restrictive import policies adopted by the Argentine government, which is prompting companies to step up their local production. Signs of this are already beginning to emerge, with Fiat announcing plans to invest ARS1,250mn (US$283mn) in Argentina in April 2012. The move which will see the carmaker involved in a broad range of activities ranging from vehicle production and exports to helping in the development of the parts segment in the country. Renault Trucks signed a similar broad agreement with the Argentine Ministry of Industry and Economy in February 2012. We however, remain cautious of Argentina's long term potential for autos production potential as long as the government retains its interference in company strategies. We accordingly we keep to our average production growth forecast of 7.4% y-o-y between 2013 and 2016. Despite the above-mentioned positive developments, Argentina continues to score significantly lower than the regional average in BMI's Risk/Rewards Ratings for the autos industry in Americas. We believe a significant relaxation in regulations for carmakers and a check on inflation will be required to help Argentina improve its score.
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