SUPPORTED by strong domestic economic growth and the booming cross-border trade with China, Hongkong sales of both heavy and light commercial vehicles soared last year. Industry figures show that sales of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) jumped 20.3 per cent to 5,769 units from 4,795 units in 1991 - and that was up 16.9 per cent on the 4,102 units sold in 1990. Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), the work horses of the distribution trades and popular with young people, were also back in demand after a downturn in sales in 1991. Total sales of LCVs topped 12,673 last year, up 32 per cent on the depressed sales of 9,594 in 1991 and three per cent higher than the previous record of 12,302 units in 1990. The increased sales in both sectors provided yet another boost to the local vehicle market on top of the record-breaking level of private passenger car sales last year. Even with the increased demand, however, both LCV and HGV sectors of the market remained highly competitive. Sales of both taxis and light buses, though, were weaker last year, with taxi sales down to 3,072 units from 3,927 units in 1991 and light buses down to 890 units from 958 units. But, as these markets are both largely replacement markets, they tend to be more cyclical than other parts of the car trade. Toyota continued its dominance of both taxis and light buses, claiming a massive 88 per cent share of the taxi market and a 79.3 per cent share of the light bus market. Both were up from 1991 market shares of 87.2 per cent and 71.9 per cent respectively. This is lucrative business for the Toyota distributor in the territory, the Crown Motors subsidiary of Inchcape Pacific, which also has a 22 per cent share of the car market. Its strong position in commercial vehicles means that it now has a 40 per cent-plus share of the entire local vehicle market ahead of Dah Chong Hong and Sime Darby. Nissan had a 8.3 per cent share of taxi sales and a mere 0.1 per cent share of light buses and was up in its taxi share (at the expense of Mitsubishi) and down badly in light buses. Mitsubishi had a 3.7 per cent of taxi sales and 20.6 per cent share of light buses, with its market share down in each segment. In the booming LCV and HGV markets, competition for market share remained extremely heated despite the substantial improvement in sales over 1991. This is because of the large number of brands being offered in both markets, which are more like the passenger car market than the restricted participation in taxis and light buses. Toyota (and therefore Crown Motors) tightened its grip on the LCV sector of the market, selling 4,976 light vehicles for a 39.3 per cent market share. That is up from just 2,803 LCVs in 1991 when the company had a 29.2 per cent market share. Its nearest competitor was another Japanese marque, Isuzu, which sold 3,254 vehicles for a 25.7 per cent market share, up from 25.1 the previous year. All the other major competitors in this segment of the market saw their market shares decline, despite some having good gains in number of vehicles sold. Mitsubishi and Mazda, for example, increased their sales to 1,551 from 1,215 and to 1,413 from 1,254 respectively, but their respective market shares dropped slightly to 12.2 per cent and 11.1 per cent respectively. Nissan and Ford, however, saw their sales and market shares decline - Nissan selling 798 LCVs (down from 859) and Ford selling 551 (down from 574). That gave them respective market shares of 6.3 per cent and 4.3 per cent. For real head-to-head competition, however, it is the HGV market which provides the real excitement in the whole vehicle industry. Isuzu, which has dominated the HGV market for years, is gradually seeing its market share being whittled away by others in the market, especially the Hino group. Toyota is only a minor player in this segment of the market. In the past three years, Isuzu has increased its sales every year to 2,076 vehicles last year from 1,867 in 1991 and 1,637 in 1990. But, at the same time, its market share has declined to 36 per cent - still a good position to have in any market - from 38.9 per cent in 1991 and 39.8 per cent in 1990. Hino, another Japanese maker, has, on the other hand, seen both sales and market share rapidly increase in response to its major marketing programme in the Hongkong market. Last year, it sold 1,477 HGVs, up massively (a 72 per cent lift) from the 857 sold in 1991 and two-and-a-half times the 596 vehicles sold in 1990. The nearest European competitor is Sweden's Scania group, which sold 162 vehicles last year (for 2.8 per cent market share), but that was down from 209 in 1991 and 255 in 1990.