Chile is south America’s most stable nation, well-ranked for lack of corruption and sustainability.
Historically, it was also one of South America’s most Europeanised countries with its track record blown off course by the 1973 coup that ousted Salvador Allende, a coup helped by the US. Pinochet’s dictatorship ended following a plebiscite, and since then it has renormalized. There are 18 million Chilean living in this famously long and tassled country. What do they drive?
Recent economic history and its geography has a bearing on Chile’s automotive preferences. The peso has been weak, driving up the cost of imports. And Chile has no native manufacturers. The last local production facility, GM, closed in July 2008. Since then the Chinese have been aiming their brands towards Chile. Fortune reported: “…nobody is moving faster in Chile than the Chinese. At last count, 14 different brands of Chinese cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles were on sale in Chile – with more expected to arrive by the end of the year.
They are a big hit, especially among younger, less affluent buyers who got their first exposure to Chinese brands buying motorcycles. Starting from scratch in 2005, annual unit sales of Chinese light vehicles sold in Chile reached nearly 3,000 last year, and Michel Pardal, manager of Latin American forecasting for J.D. Power & Associates, expects that number to quadruple in 2008. That would give Chinese carmakers a share of some 5% in just three years of Chile’s 270,000-vehicle market.
Asia dominates the supply of cars such that 50% of the imports come from South Korea and Japan. The rest come from European automakers with plants in South America. The tariffs on cars are about zero. Car malls are the main retail outlet for cars rather than individual dealers.
The bestsellingcars blog has the statistics on what Chileans are buying. The market has shrunk by about 20% since 2013. The annualised sales for 2015 are estimated at about 200,000 units. Chevrolet takes the largest single chunk of those sales reflecting their historical presence in the country but that’s 10% or about 2000 units. Kia and Nissan come next. VW are number 12, BMW is number 19 in the charts, pipped by Great Wall of China. Overall the Chinese brands hold just under 9% of the market.
What sort of vehicles are being sold? I had a look at Ford’s website and discovered that the main point of interest was that Chileans go for the saloon version of the Fiesta. Citroen sell the Elysee. Great Well sell six SUV, a pick-up and one saloon called the Voleex.
Lifan sell the 320 which is curiously like the Mini. Chery sells five models: a supermini, a hatch, an MPV and some off-roaders. I have picked the Fulwin 2 for further investigation. It’s a 4.2 metre car that looks like a saloon but is actually a hatchback. It has a 1-5 litre petrol engine.
There seems to be a wealth of interesting details to the Chilean car market and a full perusal of the 60 brands on sale there would throw up a lot of nuggets. For the moment, I suggest you brush up your Spanish and remember that .cl is the internet suffix for Chile. In case you are wondering, Lancia do not have a presence in Chile. The new Delta was not sold but the Zeta was.
Note: the text was corrected June 16. It originally read. “In case you are wondering, Lancia do not have a presence in Italy. The new Delta was not sold but the Zeta was”.