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: 2020-09-30

Overview 

 

2017 

2018 

2019 

2020 estimated 

Total Exports 

$9,160,082 

$10,900,254 

$12,671,843 

$8,870,290 

Total Imports 

$276,117,188 

$279,638,634 

$290,862,068 

$232,689,654 

Imports from the US 

$45,967,626 

$45,569,853 

$45,617,789 

$36,494,231 

Total Market Size 

$266,957,106 

$268,738,380 

$278,190,225 

$223,819,364 

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 autoparts. 

The United States is the most significant player in El Salvador’s aftermarket auto parts and accessories market. In a country with stagnant economic growth, U.S. imports in 2019 increased by 1% from the previous year. Industry leaders remain confident and expect higher growth in future years. With 30% of the total Salvadoran import market, U.S. companies enjoy a reputation for high quality products with excellent warranties.  

The Vice Minister of Transportation, Saul Castelar, reported that the total number of vehicles in circulation in El Salvador is 1,288,237, out of which approximately 40% are concentrated in the capital city of San Salvador.  515,754 are new vehicles and 772,483 are used.  

Vehicles in circulation increased by 8% from the previous year. Additionally, due to the bad condition of roads and weather conditions, vehicles deteriorate quickly and need frequent repair and/or maintenance. Unreliable, unsafe, and inefficient public transportation influence Salvadoran’s decision making when deciding to buy a car. 

Vehicles are distributed by type as follows: 578,263 automobiles, 216, 859 pick-ups, 336,629 motorcycles, 41,453 heavy trucks, 34,987 light trucks, 35,845 minibuses, 7,660 buses, 11,172 truck heads and 14,017 trailers; 108 ambulances, and 11,244 other types.                        

61.55% of the used vehicles imported to El Salvador are between 5 and 8 years old. The government is trying to implement a new law to reduce the current used vehicle age allowed from eight years to seven for vehicles imported into the country. 

The Salvadoran New Vehicle Importing Association (ASALVE) reported an increase of 6% in their sales at the end of 2019. Since the advent of COVID-19, new vehicle importers use of e-commerce marketing and online sales has increased.  

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

Top 10 brands leading the market: 

Brand 

Total 

TOYOTA 

218,511 

NISSAN 

153,767 

HONDA 

100,417 

KIA 

77,750 

HYUNDAI 

73,302 

FREEDOM 

55,143 

MITSUBISHI 

54,120 

SERPENTO 

46,535 

CHEVROLET 

42,565 

MAZDA 

40,149 

FORD 

37,845 

El Salvador’s automotive 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 threatened 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, Prestone, among others. 

 Most of the end users of auto parts and accessories are owners of mechanic and repair shops and individual vehicles. They 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 in comparison with 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 exhaustive 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 are expected to be adversely impacted in 2020.  On June 1, 2020, the Government of El Salvador placed restrictions on the imports of used cars and auto parts into the country. All maintenance and car shops were closed due to the COVID-19 quarantine for four months.  The Auto Parts industry has since resumed normal operations with sanitary protocols in place, but its imports are being affected late deliveries and an 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. 

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.

Service and Repair

Automotive accessories are a niche market in El Salvador. “Tune up” is now a very well-known term. Tuning up 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 appearanceExterior 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 and others. 

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. The Ministry of Public Transportation reported that there will be an increase of new bus imports due to the requirement to replace buses older than 20 years.  

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. 

Unlike new parts, importers of used, remanufactured and rebuilt parts, do not have to show an invoice from the manufacturer to calculate the 13% tax which is estimated by the Salvadoran Customs authorities. 

 Electric Vehicles 

The government of El Salvador has approved the reduction of taxes for the importation of electric vehicles. There are some distributors of electric vehicles (EV) and there is one official battery charging station in El Salvador. DELSUR, an electricity distribution company, has started the promotion of electric mobility and has imported the first EV.  

There is an existing proposed law that was submitted to the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly to regulate Electric Transportation. If the proposed law is formally approved, there will be good opportunities for U.S. electric mobility companies and suppliers of smart accessories and EV components. 

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 institution involved in the electric vehicle emerging market: 

  • 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, NV, November 3-6, 2020. 

U.S. Commercial Service Contact 

Sandra Hernandez, Commercial Assistant: sandra.hernandez@trade.gov