Costa Rica - Country Commercial Guide
Automotive Parts, Accessories, and Service Equipment

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data

Last published date: 2021-11-10

Overview

Unit: Millions of US$ Dollars

 

2019

2020

2021 (estimated)

2022

(estimated)*

Total Market Size

210

248

250

263

Total Local Production

85

70

80

85

Total Exports

183

129

140

142

Total Imports

308

307

310

320

Imports from the U.S.

81

80

82

85

Exchange Rate

603

620

630

640

Data Sources:Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports)

Total Local Production: Estimated. Importers/distributors of local manufacturers

Total Exports: Costa Rican Customs Directorate

Total Imports: Costa Rican Customs Directorate

Imports from U.S.: Costa Rican Customs Directorate

Exchange Rate: Average Rate by Year. Projected exchange rate for 2021 and 2022.

Local production is limited to small electrical and metal parts, batteries, electrical copper cable, hydraulic seals, filters (air/gasoline), steel leaf springs, aluminum and steel wheels, windshields, carpets, hoses, mufflers, bus bodies, seat covers and tires.  Major U.S. competitors in this sector are China, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, in that order.

In 2019, China went to #1 place alongside the U.S., both with 26 percent of the market of Auto Parts imports into Costa Rica.  Then, during 2020 China was for the first time, the number one exporter of Auto Parts to Costa Rica with 33 percent of the exports, the U.S. with 26 percent.  It is also notable that Mexico reached third with now 10 percent of the market in 2020.

Total imports in this sector slightly decreased as there was a general slowdown in the Costa Rican economy. Most people kept their vehicles as the new car trend is still down during 2019, due to additional taxes imposed to the local entrepreneurs that were already carrying a heavy load, as compared with taxes with most world economies. Imports from 2020, decreased 13 percent, mainly due to the macro-economic uncertainty from both the pandemic and the preexisting economic crisis, but it is expected a show a slow recovery during 2021 and 2022.

Even though Costa Rica is the perfect market for auto parts; with bad road infrastructure, crowded streets, lots of wear and tear due to unending traffic, this market is also a mature one and it offers all types of brands, quality of products and services.  It is important to take into consideration that the Costa Rican market is mostly a price-driven market, but there is always a niche for quality products from the United States.

The surge on the imports of used low-cost vehicles from South Korea and China during the last few decades, led to a growing increase in auto parts imports directly from Asia or through a distributor in the U.S.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The number of cars in Costa Rica has more than doubled since 2010 to an automotive park of 1,794,658 vehicles registered up to Feb. 2018 with 1,166,042 (65 percent) related to automotive vehicles; 589,037 motorcycles (33 percent), 20,918 micro buses (1 percent) and 9,661 buses (0.5 percent).  The average age of a Costa Rican car is 16 years old.

Used Vehicles

Some of the cars on Costa Rican roads are imported as “used” from the United States, as they have extras that are not standard in new cars found in Costa Rica, as well as a lower price tag.  This trend is decreasing due to good promotion of new vehicles and better support from the local banking system with financing for new cars.   The automobile 10-day fair, Expo Auto, organized by the Chamber of New Car Importers (AIVEMA), has been very successful in past years helping new car dealers do a lot of business in one place. (During 2020, the event was cancelled due to the pandemic).

Additionally, during 2019, a new regulation in place by the Costa Rican customs requires checking VINs where many cars that have been used as police cars, rentals and others aren’t allowed to be imported into Costa Rica.  The Association of Importers of Used Vehicles (CCA) as well as other two Chambers of Used Vehicles (ACAAU Y AEPSAU) have been against this regulation as it is not only stopping the imports of totaled cars but many other categories of titles that do not cause any danger to Costa Rican users.

Costa Rican importers of automotive accessories mainly purchase their products in the U.S., although a significant portion of these items are either not U.S. brands or not of U.S. origin. 

According to several Costa Rican importers of automotive parts, good sales opportunities continue for virtually all categories of products in this sector.  High quality, durability, availability and an assortment of vehicle parts, and fast delivery are the main factors for successful U.S. sales of these products.  Chinese-made products are the low-end option for the Costa Ricans when importing auto parts.

Electric Vehicles and Chargers

Costa Rica is the first Latin American country to sign a law incentivizing the purchase of electric vehicles (EV).  In 2018, former Costa Rican President Solis signed a law to promote the adoption of electric vehicles through many tax breaks and other incentives.  The Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) promulgated the regulations to implement the law.  Currently, out of the roughly 1.2 million automobiles in Costa Rica, only 1,200 are 100 percent electric.  The government projects that this number will grow because of the law’s incentives and that by 2035 Costa Rica will have over 100,000 electric cars on the streets.

The new law establishes many incentives for the purchase of EVs.  The law waives many taxes and duties for imported EVs based upon the value of the vehicle.  The exemptions will be applied on a progressive basis, such that a vehicle that costs $40,000 would get the full exemption for the first $30,000 and the intermediate exemption on the remaining $10,000.  Press reports estimate that EV buyers could save between $5,000 and $10,000 based upon these incentives.  Beyond the initial tax benefits, EV owners will also benefit from tax exemptions for replacement parts, free parking at public parking meters, and these vehicles will not be subject to driving restrictions to reduce traffic.  Any companies that decide to manufacture EVs in Costa Rica will be able to import assembly and production equipment tax free. 

Currently, new or used EVs circulating in Costa Rica include the following brands:  Audi, BMW, ByD, Chery, Chevrolet, Dulevo, FAW, Fiat, Ford, KIA, Great Wall, Hyundai, JAC, Jaguar, MG, Maxus, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Reva, Smart, Tesla, Volkswagen, Yema, Xpeng, and Yudo.  The imports of EVs grew 23 percent during 2020 and the Costa Rican government expects to have over 15,000 EV’s in circulation by 2023.

According to the Costa Rican Electric Mobility Association (ASOMOVE), there are 37 quick chargers and 110 semi quick chargers in the country.  Electromaps reports 142 locations and 190 connectors.  Despite the improving charging infrastructure, there is still a lot of space for growth, especially with the private sector.

It is important for the U.S. parts market to follow this trend in Costa Rica, as electric vehicles have an average of 200 parts, while combustion engine vehicles have over 1,000 parts.

Opportunities

Since the ratification of CAFTA-DR, U.S. suppliers are now well positioned to expand their market share for automotive parts. CAFTA-DR better positions U.S. exporters to take advantage of this expanding market. Import taxes for automotive parts before CAFTA ranged from zero to 29.95 percent, depending on the product. Most of these import taxes disappeared immediately with CAFTA-DR approval; others were gradually reduced to zero import taxes over a period of 10 years.

Opportunities are be opening in other areas such as electric vehicle chargers, battery replacement batteries and servicing for electric vehicles.

Resources

CS Costa Rica Commercial Specialist Roy Fernandez

Roy.Fernandez@trade.gov

 

CS Costa Rica (U.S. Department of Commerce):

https://www.trade.gov/costa-rica

 

Association of Importers of Auto Parts – ACIRA

ajsauma@autosasa.com

echacon@europartesvega.com

 

Association of Used Vehicle Importers – AEPSAU (new)

belendirect@yahoo.com

 

Costa Rican Automotive Chamber –CCA

carballomotor@gmail.com

 

Costa Rican Association of Importers of Vehicles –AIVEMA

aivema@racsa.co.cr

 

Movilidad Electrica (Oganization) – Electric Mobility Advocate

info@costaricalimpia.org

 

Costa Rican Customs Directorate, Ministry of Finance

https://www.hacienda.go.cr