IN THE DRIVING SEAT

Panama 2014 | INDUSTRY | B2B: CAR MARKET

The auto sector in Panama is showing strong signs of rapid growth. Now, many of the major international brands are looking to take advantage of this growth.

Iván A. Jurado A.
IVÁN A. JURADO A.
Executive Vice-President and General Manager
Petroautos
Everst Figueroa
EVERST FIGUEROA
Country Manager
Excel Automotriz

How would you describe your financial performance in 2013?

IVÁN A. JURADO A. We are happy with the growth that we obtained; however, other competitors grew more than we did in 2013. In the last five years, we have had years with 70% growth, and some years with 45%-50% growth. That is not the ideal situation because it puts a lot of pressure on the after-sales operation. By 2011, we were paying for the consequences of rapid growth since the quality of service suffered a little. Now, we have it under control and we are increasing our customer satisfaction index. We are up to industry standards now. Looking to the future, 10%-15% growth per year is desirable for us and attainable.

EVERST FIGUEROA It was a solid year of noteworthy growth. In 2013, Nissan was in a transition period and lacked new models. The products of 2013 had not changed for a decade, thus making it challenging to reach top sales levels. Nissan has worked to prepare its production base for Nissan's new era that commenced in 2014. The strategy was focused on the second half of 2014 and 2015, with the new X-TRAIL and Qashqai products truly refreshing the brand's image. That is why in 2014 we will be reaping the benefits of our efforts in 2012 and 2013. The Sentra B13 has been on sale for 20 years now; it is our best-selling vehicle, but the Nissan brand we want to project in 2014 is different. The message we are seeking to transmit is one of innovation.

What are the main trends that you can identify in the demand for cars?

IAJA Small cars. With a very deficient transportation service in Panama, low-income people aspire to have a car, and they make an extra effort. They usually go for small, affordable, entry-level vehicles.

EF Panama is a unique market, focused on small-sized sedans, because, even though Panama has metro and metro bus systems, public transport does not cover enough of the country. That is why a family with a monthly income of around $1,000 prefers to pay more for a small-sized car than face the inconvenience of public transportation. We expect the growth of the national economy and of the lower-middle class to propel sales in this segment.

What are Petroautos' main priorities, and what are your future investment plans?

IAJA Our main priority right now is after sales. We are competitive in service quality, but we always aspire to increase our levels of service. We also want to improve our dealer network. We are building a new, state-of-the-art facility with one of the biggest showrooms in Panama. We will have our auto parts distribution center there and a big service shop also. It is what we call a 3S facility; service, sales, and parts. We are also in the process of rebuilding our Chitre facility and are close to starting the remodeling of our headquarters in Transistmica, as well as the David facility.

Which Nissan products will you launch in 2014?

EF In June and July 2014, we welcomed the all new Nissan Qashqai and Nissan X-TRAIL, two different SUVs proven to be a huge success with complete new designs and technology. These two models have given us pole position in the SUV segment. For 2015, we look forward to the launch of the new Frontier pickup. With these models, we aspire to rank among the top three players. We have the right product range for the Panamanian consumer.