El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Automotive Parts and Service Equipment

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

Last published date: 2021-11-05

 Overview 

 

2018 

2019 

2020

2021 estimated 

 

Total Exports 

 

10.9

 

12.3

 

11.5

 

11.6

 

Total Imports 

 

279.6

 

289.5

 

243.7

 

246.2

 

Imports from the US 

45.5

 

45.6

 

34.6

 

35.0

 

Total Market Size 

268.7

 

277.1

 

232.2

 

234.5

 

Exchange Rates 

 

US Dollar

 

US Dollar

 

US Dollar

 

US Dollar

Source: Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Foreign Trade Division TPIS Database: USHS Exports. Note: No reliable source for local production of auto parts. 

Units: $ millions

The United States is the most significant player in El Salvador’s aftermarket auto parts and accessories market. Due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, auto parts imports from the U.S. in 2020 experienced a slightly decrease from the previous year. Industry leaders remain confident and expect a higher growth in the upcoming year. With 30% of the total Salvadoran import market, U.S. companies enjoy a reputation for high quality products with excellent warranties.  

In April 2021, The Vice Minister of Transportation, Saul Castelar, reported that the total number of vehicles in circulation in El Salvador is 1,359,561, out of which approximately 40% are concentrated in the capital city of San Salvador.  561,758 are new vehicles and 797,803 are used.  

Vehicles in circulation increased by 5% in 2020 versus the previous year. Unreliable, unsafe, and inefficient public transportation, along with a desire to mitigate Covid-19 exposure are factors that have increased demand.  Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are popular.

Vehicles are distributed by type as follows: 607,910 automobiles, 219,607 pick-ups, 371,970 motorcycles, 42,091 heavy trucks, 37,144 light trucks, 22,062 minibuses, 7,572 buses, 14,218 panels, 11,193 truck heads and 14,272 trailers; 104 ambulances, and 11,418 other types. 61.55% of the used vehicles imported to El Salvador are between 5 and 8 years old.

Leading automotive brands present in the market include Audi, Porsche, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi Motors, BMW, Hino, Daihatsu, Isuzu, Jeep, Ford, Dodge, Mazda, VW, and Peugeot.

Top 10 brands leading the market:

Brand 

Total 

TOYOTA 

221,980 

NISSAN 

 164,212

HONDA 

 108,687

KIA 

83,305

HYUNDAI 

78,527

 

MITSUBISHI

57,527

FREEDOM 

51,473

SERPENTO 

51,473

CHEVROLET 

44,014

MAZDA 

40,665

FORD 

38,674

The Salvadoran New Vehicle Importing Association (ASALVE) reported that since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, new vehicle importers’ use of e-commerce marketing and online sales has increased.

El Salvador’s auto parts sector is highly competitive and price sensitive. Asian companies have gained market share as the number of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese auto manufacturers continue to grow in El Salvador. Three countries (Colombia, Brazil, and Germany) make up a third of imports but do not yet threaten the dominant position of imports held by the United States. Taiwanese companies are known for their ability to compete on price and are positioned to take a greater share of the import market. A partial list of automotive product brands currently in the market include Amalie, ArmorAll, Turtle Wax, Mobil Oil, Goodyear, Bendix, Alloy International, Die Hard, BF Goodrich, Dayco, STP, Fleetguard, Castrol, Champion Spark Plug, American Quality Lubricant, Federal Mogul, Pennzoil, Preston, among others.

Most of the end users of auto parts and accessories are owners of mechanic and repair shops and individual vehicles, who prefer to purchase auto parts and accessories directly from the distributor/retailer.  Salvadoran distributors are extremely receptive to U.S. products. Many executives speak English and are familiar with U.S. business practices. Moreover, El Salvador’s geographic proximity to the United States provides greater access to U.S. companies and faster inventory delivery compared to Asian companies.  

The breakdown of end-users is as follows: 

  • Freight and passenger transportation companies 
  • Repair and maintenance shops 
  • Service stations, gasoline dealers and lubrication centers 
  • Government agencies 
  • Other end-users: car rentals and cargo companies.   

Companies that seek to do business in El Salvador should work closely with a local distributor. Assigning one distributor for the size and demand of the country is appropriate. A potential Salvadoran distributor may handle various products and often seeks an exclusive distributorship. After conducting comprehensive due diligence and establishing a solid business relationship with a potential partner, U.S. companies should consider using letters of credit, extending lines of credit, or the Small Business Administration (SBA) financing programs.  

Breakdown of distribution channels are as follows: 

  • Importers and distributors of automotive parts and accessories 
  • Tire distributors 
  • Wholesalers  

The aftermarket parts and accessories sector was adversely impacted in 2020.  All maintenance and car shops were closed due to the Covid-19 quarantine and restrictions by the Government of El Salvador.  The auto parts industry has resumed normal operations with sanitary protocols in place, but its imports are being affected by late deliveries and have been severely impacted by the increase in import shipping costs. 

Leading Sub-Sectors

The top opportunities include spare and replacement parts for gasoline and diesel motors. For instance:  

  • Radial Tires. 
  • Electric accumulators; lead-acid, of a kind used for starting piston engines, including separators. 
  • New pneumatic tires of rubber, of a kind used on motor cars. 
  • Air conditioning machines; containing a motor driven fan, other than window or wall types, incorporating a refrigerating unit. 
  • Oil petrol-filters for internal combustion engines.  
  • Vehicle parts and accessories; n.e.c.1 In heading no. 8708. 
  • Engines; parts, suitable for use solely or principally with spark-ignition internal combustion piston engines. 
  • Retreaded or used pneumatic tires of rubber; solid or cushion tires, tire treads and tire flaps, of rubber 
  • Suspension shock absorbers. 
  • Gaskets, washers, and other seals of valves. 
  • Machinery; intake air filters for internal combustion engines. 
  • Fans. 
  • Safety products: alarms, GPS, and sound systems. 
  • Diagnostic equipment. 
  • Service and Repair

Automotive accessories are a niche market in El Salvador. “Tune up” is now a very well-known term and has become a way to personalize the characteristics of a vehicle to the owner’s preference in order to provide better fuel economy and more power, or just to change the appearance. Exterior modifications have increased the demand of accessories and parts such as: front and rear bumpers, splitters, light weight wheels and spoilers. There are no restrictions to customize vehicles in El Salvador. Consumers like to customize wheels and rims, auto sound and alarms, spoilers, LED taillights, among other modifications. 

Repair shops are seeking current generation diagnostic equipment. Tools for technical maintenance include diagnostic software, scanners, electronic measure systems, and pneumatic tools, among others. Shops that handle collision repair need welding equipment, cutting tools, adhesives, glass repair kits, spray guns, batch ovens, glass protection films and other equipment related to body repair. 

Public transportation (buses) and heavy-duty transportation (trucks) are the main end users of remanufactured parts. Remanufacturers also import and distribute new parts, some of which are used as replacement parts in rebuilt engines. The parts are mainly imported from the U.S., China, Mexico, and Japan. Remanufacturers explained that a good portion of their customers buy imported used engines locally and have them remanufactured.  The most common public bus brands are: Blue Bird, International, American Motors, Mercedes Benz, and Hyundai.

Remanufactured parts and used parts are sold through new parts distributors as well as through smaller shops in the city center. The primary parts distributors which sell used and remanufactured parts in many cases do not carry them as a separate line of products, but rather in packages. For example, a brake system kit might include a remanufactured spare part. Rebuilt or remanufactured parts which are in heavy demand in the country are brake and clutch systems and engines for heavy duty transportation. 

An invoice is not required to import used, remanufactured, or rebuilt parts.  If there is no invoice, Salvadoran Customs Authorities will use an estimate to calculate the 13% import tax.

Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

El Salvador’s Law for the Promotion and Incentives to Import Electric and Hybrid Vehicles, approved in September 2020, includes a tax reduction for the importation of electric vehicles and all the regulations for electric mobility. This brings opportunities for U.S. electric mobility companies and suppliers of batteries, electric charging stations, and smart mobility accessories.

Energy companies are progressively replacing combustion vehicles in their urban light fleet with state-of-the-art 100% electric cars. Currently, AES El Salvador has seven vehicles in operation: three in the eastern zone, two in the western zone and the same number in the central zone. Likewise, AES is installing a network of electric vehicle charging stations nationwide, the company will have a fleet of 14 electric vehicles and 18 EV charging stations by the end of 2021.

DELSUR, an electricity distribution company, was the first company promoting electric mobility and has imported an electric vehicle. They have also installed an electric charging station in San Salvador.

Opportunities

There are no manufacturers of automotive parts and accessories in El Salvador. Import tariffs for auto parts under HTC 8708 and most vehicle accessories under HTC 8714 were automatically reduced to zero after the CAFTA-DR implementation. U.S. brands are always in high demand by Salvadoran distributors who are looking for innovation, high quality, durability, warranty, and fast delivery.  

Currently, 90% of used vehicles purchased in El Salvador are imported from the United States and many are salvaged cars bought at auctions. The salvaged vehicles are then repaired and sold in the local market. Auto repair shops play a key role in influencing customers on purchasing decisions.  

Resources

There are two associations that represent the interests of the automotive sector:  

  • Salvadoran Association of Auto Parts Importers (ASIRA) 
  • Salvadoran Association of Distributors of Vehicles (ASALVE) 

Other companies involved in the electric vehicle emerging market: 

  • AES El Salvador
  • DELSUR 

A good opportunity for U.S. companies to meet Salvadoran buyers is participating at U.S. trade shows.  The U.S. Commercial Service in Central America annually leads a buyer delegation to:

  • The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW): SEMA and AAPEX shows in Las Vegas, N.V, November 2-5, 2021.

Interested parties may contact Commercial Assistant Sandra Hernandez at sandra.hernandez@trade.gov